Dental anxiety is a common fear that many people face when it comes to oral hygiene. In fact, up to 20% of Americans skip the dentist because of anxiety from past experiences, pain, or the fear of the unknown. If this sounds like you, we understand where your fear is coming from, but routine dental visits are far too important for your health to skip.
Luckily, there are ways to manage dental anxiety and make your visit more comfortable. In this blog, we will discuss common dental anxieties and some tips to help quiet those fears.
Common Dental Fears
There are many reasons why people may experience dental anxiety. Some of the common reasons include:
- Fear of Pain: Many people fear that dental procedures will be painful or uncomfortable. While some pressure may be an inevitable part of the process, it’s important to note that it is the goal of the dentist is to make sure you don’t feel any pain while they are working in your mouth. If you do experience pain while getting a procedure done, speak up!
- Fear of Injections: The thought of needles or injections can be daunting for many people, which is why it is important to find ways to relax so the dentist can properly treat you.
- Fear of the Drill: The sound and vibrations of a dental drill can be unsettling for many people. But try to remember the dentist and their technicians are highly trained and knowledgeable about all the tools they are using.
- Fear of the Unknown: For many people, the fear of the unknown can cause anxiety. Not knowing what to expect during a dental procedure can make people feel uneasy. There also may be a fear of being unable to control the things going on.
- Fear of Embarrassment: People may feel embarrassed about the condition of their teeth or their oral hygiene habits, leading to anxiety and fear about going to the dentist. Some people may fear being judged by the dentist for their dental health or lifestyle choices.
- Fear of Anesthetic Side Effects: Some people may fear the potential side effects of anesthesia such as dizziness or feeling faint. Others don’t like the numbness or “fat lip” effect.
6 Dental Anxiety Tips
Find the Right Dentist For You
The first step to managing dental anxiety is to find a dentist who is understanding and supportive of your anxiety. Look for a dentist who is patient, gentle, and takes the time to explain procedures and answer any questions.
It’s important to communicate any fears or concerns with your dentist so they can work with you to make your visit as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Dental anxiety is so common that most (if not all) dentists take steps to alleviate these fears. If you’re worried about voicing your concerns upfront, consider emailing or calling them.
Bring headphones and listen to music or a podcast to help distract you during the procedure. Alternatively, you can try visualization techniques, where you imagine yourself in a peaceful and calming environment.
If you prefer not to bring headphones, ask your dentist if they can play relaxing music, reduce any lingering noises, or give you something to hold onto. Some dentists have televisions or can offer you a warm blanket to help ease your nerves as well. These can be good techniques to distract yourself from injections or the sounds of the drill.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Just the thought of going to the dentist can trigger the “flight or fight” response, which induces stress. It’s important to try and remain calm before and during your appointment to avoid any extra discomfort. That is why we recommend finding some relaxation techniques that suit you.
Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help calm your mind and body before your dental appointment. During your appointment, you can continue deep breathing exercises, guided imagery techniques, or mindfulness meditation. It may be beneficial to practice any of these techniques a day or two before your appointment to help reduce your anxiety.
Stop when you feel like you need a break. A sensitive and responsive dental team will give you time to relax when necessary. This isn’t to say you should be taking breaks every 5 minutes, but ask your dentist when you can take a few breaks that won’t disrupt your procedure or the dentist’s overall schedule.
If you have severe anxiety, you may want to consider sedation options such as nitrous oxide or oral sedation. You may be able to snooze your way through a difficult procedure. Talk to your dentist about these options and whether they are right for you.
Also, it is important to remember that although slight pressure and pain may be inevitable, you shouldn’t be feeling any sharp pain. If you feel like something is hurting or isn’t feeling right, speak up and let your dentist know. Don’t try to endure pain because you feel embarrassed or scared. Your dentists are here to help, and pain-free dentistry is the goal.
Avoid waiting until your dental issue has become unbearable before scheduling an appointment. By addressing the issue early, you can prevent further damage and reduce the likelihood of needing more invasive procedures.
Oftentimes, people avoid contacting their dentist at the first sign of pain or discomfort, but don’t ignore your body! It is unlikely that dental issues will clear up on their own if you ignore them. By the time things become too painful to ignore, you may be dealing with a more hefty procedure than when you first noticed the discomfort.
Try Not to Avoid the Dentist
The decision to visit the dentist comes down to you. Your dentist can only recommend so much, and maybe you don’t feel the need to go in. The reality of this decision is that you will probably be dealing with more procedures and health issues if you try to skip the dentist. So ultimately, skipping routine dental checkups will lead to more dental visits and potentially more tooth decay/ gum disease.
Dental anxiety is a common fear, but there are ways to manage it. Here at Lake Bluff Dentistry, we take all of our patient’s concerns seriously. Our founder and lead dentist, Dr. Khan, is very people-oriented, with the goal of defeating dental anxiety. Seeing patients leave after their appointment happy and smiling inspires her to be the best! If you are looking for a dentist in the Lake Bluff area, schedule your visit or contact us today!