An estimated 30 to 40 million people avoid going to the dentist due to fear or anxiety, explains Colgate. Many of them are embarrassed or ashamed of their fear but can't get past the anxiety to seek out regular dental care. This can lead to serious dental problems and pain. If you are one of the millions of Americans that suffer from dentophobia, you probably already know your fears are unfounded. What you may not know is how to overcome your fear and anxiety so you can receive the dental care you need. Follow these recommendations for squelching your fear of the dentist.
Anxiety Versus Dentophobia?
Experiencing some anxiety is fairly normal. It may make you feel uncomfortable, but you are able to cope with the situation and visit the dentist when needed. This type of anxiety is not debilitating and does not prevent you from seeking the dental care you need.
Dentophobia is more severe than mild anxiety. By definition a phobia is an overwhelming fear, typically irrational, of an object or situation. Phobias may be immobilizing and are generally accompanied by intense anxiety. Phobias may trigger anxiety or panic attacks. You may experience dizziness, increased heart rate, nausea, breathlessness, and a fear of dying.
Mild anxiety over visiting the dentist can often be eased with relaxation and distraction. Try these tricks of relaxing your body and occupying your mind.
Using Breathing Techniques. Many find that controlling their breathing induces relaxation and reduces anxiety. Breathe in through your nose, hold the breath for a count of five, and slowly exhale through your mouth. You may find it helpful to practice controlled breathing as you sit in the waiting room or even in the car on your way to the dentist.
Listening to Music. Bring your own music player and listen to your favorite tunes with headphones. You may wish to bring recordings of nature sounds or other music designed for relaxation, but you can use any music that helps you get your mind off other things.
Managing Your Thoughts. Giving your mind something to do besides concentrating on the movements and actions of the dentist will help you to focus your energy. Think of happy memories or think about all the things you have to be grateful for. Avoid dwelling on your fears or counting the moments until the procedure is over.
Overcoming a phobia may be more challenging, but there are several options available.
Seek a Dentist with Experience Treating People with Dentophobia. Dentists who recognize dentophobia as a real condition often employ techniques to make your time less stressful. Talk to several dentists ahead of time and choose one who specializes in treating people with dentophobia.
Choose the Right Sedative. While many dentists rely on a local anesthetic, there are other options. You can get an oral sedative from your doctor to relax you and reduce anxiety before your dental appointment, or else your dentist can use nitrous oxide or IV sedation if necessary. Talk to your dentist before your appointment to determine which options are available and suitable for you. If the dentist you are considering does not offer the sedation you need, look for one that does.
Try Hypnosis. In extreme cases of dentophobia, hypnosis by a trained professional may be a reasonable option. Talk to your psychologist to determine whether a hypnosis session to combat your fears is a good option for you.
Don't let your fears of the dentist prevent you from proper dental care or cause you to suffer in pain. Talk honestly with your dentist to find out how you can ease your fears and discomfort. Make an appointment with a practice like All About Smiles to try out these techniques.