Dental Anxiety: Dealing with your fear to go to the dentist.

dental anxiety

Dentists are very nice people. That is mostly when you meet them at a supermarket or run into them with their families. For many people, inside that freezing room with that ghastly chair, a dentist is the monster that haunts their sweet dreams. Them with their myriad instruments and that dreadful needle. It can be a scary experience but like so many fears, this too is largely in our minds. Today we are going to look at why you should not be afraid of the dentist and how to handle your anxiety so that you can have a smooth dental visit.

Dentists, like the rest of the providers of healthcare exist so that they can get you back to your optimal health and shape. The ethical code they live by dictates among other principles that first, “Do no harm.” It is important that we remain cognizant of this fact, regardless what our fears try to tell us. No dentist will intentionally cause you pain that is unnecessary and even though many procedures can be uncomfortable, they will ensure that it is as comfortable as science and the resources available to them allow it to be.

The presence of the dentist and their good intentions does not however invalidate a patient’s fear and anxiety associated with visiting the dentist’s office. This anxiety can be so bad that one delays going to see a dentist until the pain becomes too excruciating to bear and they have no choice. This is dangerous since it can become a cycle, a cycle that is also called the vicious cycle of dental anxiety. This is where due to fear of a dentist, one’s condition deteriorates to a point where they need more complex and invasive procedures which in turn causes their anxiety to increase even further.

Signs and symptoms of dental anxiety

Anxiety is the emotional state one experiences before they experience an event they fear. It is important that patients recognize this and that the dentists be able to handle this. Anxiety can manifest as

  • a feeling of uneasiness,
  • a racing heartbeat,
  • sweating
  • and even fainting when put in a position where one needs dental treatment.

Causes of dental anxiety

Dental anxiety can be due to a number of factors. These factors can be related to a specific trigger for example the dental injection or the drilling hand piece, it can be related to the general dental visit or one could even be afraid that they may experience a medical catastrophe like a heart attack when receiving treatment. Some cases are even triggered by distrustful dental healthcare providers.

If you happen to be aware of what your trigger is, it is very helpful to talk to your dentist about it before treatment commences. The dentist will then walk you through why they need to do what they have to do, how they are going to do it and also how you will perceive it via your senses. Once you name your fears, they are much easier to scale and to overcome. Knowing what is being done and why will also give you a sense of control and will reduce the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

How to manage dental anxiety?

Psychologists say that there are exercises we can do to reduce our anxiety before huge events like speaking before large crowds, a daunting exam and even small ones like visiting the dentist (pun intended).

  1. You can distract yourself using music, or a movie, or a podcast whatever you can manage and enjoy. Having your other senses actively occupied has been found to help people to calm down during a procedure.
  2. There’s also the deep breathing technique. It is difficult to remain tense when you are breathing with your abdomen. Take deep breaths and slowly release them through your nose. This can be that quick rescue exercise before, during or after a procedure.
  3. You can also recreate the situation using your mind. Our minds are powerful things, powerful enough to transport us to a happy place we can create to escape to while a dental procedure is being done. If you are able to do this, then why not?
  4. Communication is very important. Ask questions, mention when you are in pain, ask for breaks when you cannot push anymore. In case you have had a terrible experience with a dentist, remember that like your favorite food, sometimes service is not delivered as it should. That does not make it the norm. If your dentist misuses all the chances you give him, then by all means, change them. Do not however neglect to get dental care. Until next time, be blessed.