Millions of people suffer from some degree of dental phobia or fear. The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine states that 30 to 50 percent of all Americans (over 50 million people), suffer from some form of dental phobia. You’re not alone if you’re afraid to visit the dentist or if your fears keep you from getting treatment even when you’re in pain.
Most people feel some nervousness before sitting in the dentist’s chair. Dental phobia is different. It’s a paralyzing feeling that makes your heart beat faster, your mouth go dry, and the blood pound in your veins. Some people may feel so frightened that they cannot take one step out the door to their appointment. Others may cancel appointments just to avoid feeling helpless and terrified. If that sounds like you, you may suffer from extreme dental anxiety or even a dental phobia.
Causes of Dental Phobia
What causes dental phobias? Just going to a doctor or dentist alone is enough to make some people nervous.
Sometimes dentists have a cold, clinical approach to patient care that makes people feel they’re not heard or that the dentist is “just doing his job” and doesn’t care about them.
The sights, sounds and smells of a dental office can cause anxiety in some. Sitting or lying on your back with your mouth open and total strangers poking your teeth and gums isn’t pleasant. For some, it brings up painful feelings of helplessness which they would rather avoid than face.
Others had painful or uncomfortable experiences when they were children or heard awful stories about a relative who had a root canal without pain medication. Unfortunately, the mental pictures conjured up by stories told to us from well-meaning family and friends can lodge in our minds and become just as real as if it happened to us.
Many people cannot point to any one source for their fear; it’s just there, with no explanation. No matter how much logic people use to persuade them to make an appointment, they can’t get over their fears. Their tooth may ache, their gums may bleed, but they cannot step foot into a dentist’s office.
But there is hope. There are options for people with dental phobias and fears.
Three Tips for People Who Are Afraid of the Dentist
Please don’t neglect your dental health. The following tips for people who are afraid to go to the dentist may be able to help you make – and keep – your next dental appointment.
1. Find a caring dentist who understands dental phobias and fears. Not everyone does. A dentist with experience working with people who suffer from dental phobias should have processes, procedures and options in place to ease your fears and make you comfortable. They may differ among dentists since each brings his or her own unique approach to treatment, but all should be sympathetic to your plight and offer you options to make you comfortable during your visit.
2. Ask if positive distractions such as music or DVDs are available. Headphones playing your favorite music can drown out unpleasant sounds during dental procedures. DVD glasses playing an engrossing movie can block out both sights and sounds, transporting your mind far away from the procedure room. Even magazines, books or movies in the waiting room can ease your fears by keeping your mind occupied and away from dwelling on the dental visit. Ask potential dentists what distraction devices or services they may offer before making an appointment if such an approach appeals to you.
3. Consider sedation dentistry with a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). Sedation dentistry, also called “sleep” dentistry, uses IV sedation to help you feel relaxed, drowsy and comfortable during your procedure. Sometimes dentists can accomplish several procedures at once while you’re under sedation. However, choose a sedation dentist who works with a certified registered nurse anesthetist. The CRNA monitors your sedation and vital signs during the procedure so that the dentist can focus on your treatment. Dentists who offer oral sedation tend to have their attention divided between monitoring the patient and completing the dental procedure. A dentist working with a CRNA doesn’t have his attention split and can focus exclusively on your dental needs, while the CRNA monitors your vitals and keeps you safe and healthy.
The Right Dentist Is Waiting to Help You
The right dentist is waiting to help you. Even if you have to travel to find a dentist with experience working with dental phobic patients, or a dentist who offers sedation dentistry with a certified registered nurse anesthetist, choosing a caring dentist you can trust is vital for your overall health and well being. Not only will he help you keep your teeth healthy, but also healthy teeth and gums enhance your entire health from head to toe.