“I’m not a kid,” You think to yourself. “I shouldn’t be afraid of going to the dentist.”
But that doesn’t make the fear go away. It also doesn’t help you feel any better. In this article, you’ll learn some tips for what to do when you’re visiting a dentist while suffering from dental anxiety. These tips will help you feel less nervous. Additionally, this fear of visiting dentists isn’t limited to you. As you’ll learn in this article, dental anxiety and dental phobia are more common than people think.
Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia
According to the Journal of Dental Hygiene, 50% to 80% of Americans, and adults specifically, have mild to severe forms of dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is fear of visiting a dentist. Dental phobia, which is less common than dental anxiety, is an extreme fear of visiting a dentist.
Understanding dental anxiety and dental phobia is important because these types of fears:
- Lead people to avoid visiting a dentist
- Lead people to feeling threatened or afraid while at the dentist
- Make people avoid good oral hygiene practices in order to maintain optimal oral health
So, while fear of visiting the dentist may seem unimportant and silly, it’s actually a barrier to having good and beautiful teeth.
Think about it. If you’re afraid of visiting the dentist, then you’re usually waiting for the worst thing to happen (like a cavity). Then when you visit the dentist, you’re having your fears reinforced because you’re associating the dentist’s office with stressful situations. On the flip side, if you’re visiting a dentist on a regular basis, your brain learns to associate the dentist’s office with positive things like teeth cleanings and checkups. This is why it’s important to visit a dentist regularly rather than waiting until the last minute.
3 Tips to Coping With Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia
That being said, if you’re scared of visiting a dentist, here are 3 tips to coping with dental anxiety and phobia.
1. Get to know your dental team and talk to them
Sometimes, you might be afraid of visiting the dentist because you haven’t familiarized yourself with your dental team. That’s why it’s important to get to know your dental team during a consultation or regular check up. During this check up, ask questions and mention your fears.
In psychology, researchers have found that being able to talk about how you’re feeling helps you cope with that feeling. They’ve also found that acknowledging how you’re feeling, rather than ignoring it and hoping your feeling goes away, helps those emotions become less strong and prominent. Talking takes away some of the fears that come with silence.
2. Learn to slowly expose yourself to what you’re scared of
In the book The Mindful Way Through Anxiety, Dr. Susan M. Orsillo and Dr. Lizabeth Roemer have found that a great way to overcome a fear or anxiety related to something is by slowly exposing yourself to the things that you fear. As you slowly expose yourself to the things you’re afraid of, you learn how to manage your emotions related to that thing or situation. Your fear of that thing or situation also decreases.
So, if you’re scared of visiting a dentist, the first step might be learning about different dental procedures like the process of cleaning your teeth at a dentist’s office or by understanding the root canal process. Once you’ve gotten to know your dentist and about different dental processes, you should also visit your dentist regularly. Visiting your dentist on a consistent basis will help you build your distress tolerance. This type of tolerance is what helps you sit with and manage uncomfortable emotions.
3. Practice Mindfulness Skills
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment. What this means is that if you’re visiting your dentist and start feeling anxious, then you’ll go back to your body. For example, you’ll think about the things that you see and the smells around you. With mindfulness, you focus on your senses and on the present moment. By focusing on what’s around you, you pull yourself out of your thoughts and begin to see what’s actually happening rather than what you think will happen. Remember, your dentist is there to help you and will do everything they can to limit the amount of pain that you feel.
At Sunset Dental Care, We Care About You!
At Sunset Dental Care, we care about you! We want to make sure that you feel comfortable, safe and that you know you’re in good hands. To familiarize yourself with our dental office, we would love to hear from you so that we address any concerns that you may have.
We would also love to help you by having you take a look at the testimonials we’ve received from our patients. Our patients are happy with our dental care and know that their needs and concerns matter to us!