Overcoming Your Fear Of The Dentist

Being afraid of the dentist isn't an uncommon plight. Many people experience anxiety, dread or even extreme panic when faced with the prospect of having to visit their family dentists. In fact, 22 percent of adults who don't see a dentist regularly cited fear as their main reason for avoidance, according to the American Dental Association in the 2015 Oral Health & Well-Being in the United States report. Oral health is important, so it's best to see your dentist regularly to prevent serious issues that could cause severe pain or permanently damage your teeth from arising. If it's been awhile since you've been in the exam chair due to dental anxiety or phobia, there are steps you can take to help you overcome your fear, such as:

Talk to Your Dentist About Your Concerns

While it's not easy to admit that you're afraid, nearly all dentists have treated patients with the same fears you have. Talk to your provider about how you feel about dental work and explain what situations or tools make you the most nervous if you have a good understanding of the root causes of your worry. Your dentist will likely be willing to take a little extra time with you to work slowly and explain everything that you'll be experiencing before starting. Many dentists will also work with you on positioning so that you're not completely reclined in the chair, helping you feel less vulnerable. Coming up with an easy hand signal your dentist and hygienist will recognize as a sign to stop for a moment is another good tactic.

Ask About Sedation Options

Many dental offices offer sedation options for patients who experience dental anxiety. There are several different options, including a local anesthetic, nitrous oxide, and IV sedation. If your regular dentist doesn't offer sedation for routine procedures, look for a family dentist in your area who does. Some dentists advertise that they specialize in dealing with fearful patients or "cater to cowards," and these providers will most likely offer sedation options to help you relax and be more comfortable during any procedures, including routine cleanings and examinations.

Distract Yourself

Some patients who feel anxious or panicked in the dentist's chair find it's worse if they're simply lying there with nothing to focus on but the exam or procedure happening in their mouths. Try bringing earbuds with you so you can listen to relaxing music and drown out any machine or tool sounds that might feed your fear. Some offices have televisions or noise-canceling headphones available for patients who find it difficult to cope. Relaxation techniques like meditation and controlled, deep breathing can also be helpful. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose, try wearing a nasal strip made for snoring when you visit your dentist to help open up your nasal passages.

Seek Professional Help

If you feel like you've tried everything and sought out different dentists, but you still find yourself unable to overcome your fears, it may be time to seek professional psychological help. For some people, fear of the dentist goes beyond anxiety and nervousness and becomes a true phobia. A trained psychologist or psychiatrist can help you uncover the underlying causes of your fear and help you work through them so you'll be able to handle regular visits in the future.

Contact a dental office like William U Britton DDS MAGD for more information and assistance.