Dental anxiety is very common. The National Library of Medicine reports that 36% of the population experience dental anxiety, with a further 12% suffering from extreme fear, known as dentophobia. Regular dental visits are essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums, yet dental anxiety keeps some patients from regular checkups. There are ways to alleviate and even eliminate these feelings.
Letting your dentophobia or dental anxiety hold you back from regular appointments can have serious consequences, such as:
- Stained or discolored teeth
- Chipped, broken, and cracked teeth
- Gum disease
- Gum recession
- Cavities and tooth decay
- Mouth pain
- Tooth loss
Other issues like Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD), sleep apnea, and oral cancer will go undetected and untreated by avoiding dental checkups.
Why Do People Experience Dentophobia and Dental Anxiety?
You’re more likely to develop a fear of the dentist or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you have already experienced:
- Anxiety disorder
- Another phobia
- Panic disorder
- Substance use disorder
Other possible causes of dentophobia are:
- Family history. Your risk of developing a phobia increases if your parent or family member has an anxiety disorder, or you may have more anxiety than others due to genetics.
- Feeling embarrassed. You may simply feel strange about the dentist or hygienist is so close to your face or worried about how your breath smells or how your teeth look.
- Modeling. You may have heard a loved one talking about their negative experiences or their fears of the dentist, which can spark the same phobia in you.
- Past negative experiences. People who have had past negative experiences related to going to the dentist may develop dentophobia, such as fear of going to the dentist as a child, traumatic history (procedures performed without your consent), or having procedures that inflicted pain or complications.
5 Tips For Overcoming Dental Anxiety
The most important step to addressing your dental anxiety is communication. Here are 5 tips to ease your fears:
- Watch your food and water intake. Before your appointment, avoid foods and beverages with high sugars or caffeine. These stimulants can cause jitters and exacerbate nervousness. Instead, try something with calming properties such as caffeine-free tea.
- Ask the doctor to explain the process beforehand. Regardless if someone experiences dental anxiety, having your dentist explain what they’re doing and why can help calm your nervous system.
- Practice breathing exercises. Remembering to breathe is a key component for staying calm and relaxed during a procedure or routine cleaning.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Avoid skipping appointments. When you see your dentist regularly, there are fewer unknowns, which alleviates anxiety. Ask for the same clinician each time. You start to get more comfortable by getting to know each other better.
- Bring distractions. Do you have a favorite podcast or playlist you like to listen to? Bring your headphones so you can distract your mind and help relax you during your visit.
Please don’t hesitate to tell our staff members as you’re scheduling your appointment or reiterating to your hygienist that you’re feeling anxious about certain aspects of your visit. We want to understand what makes you nervous, so we can offer solutions to make you more comfortable.
We know it’s easier said than done to get past certain anxieties. But with mindfulness and communication, the team at Dr. Deborah Anders, DDS, PA has seen patients overcome and cope with their fears. Contact us today, and let’s get your oral health back on track!