Overcoming Dental Anxiety

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If you have a fear, there is a good chance there is a phobia associated with it. Did you know that Decidophobia is the fear of making decisions and Katsaridaphobia is the fear of cockroaches? Dentophobia? That’s a real thing too, especially if you are someone who suffers from it. Dentophobia is the fear of dentists, and it may be keeping you from getting the most out of your health and dental insurance benefits.We know that proper, ongoing oral health care is an important part of caring for our overall health. If dentophobia, or dental anxiety, is preventing you from keeping up regular dental visits, it’s time to do something to address it.

Finding the Source

Dental anxiety affects an estimated 10-20% of dental patients, so at least you’re in good company. Part of addressing your fear of the dentist is drilling down (pardon the pun) to the real source of the problem. Are you afraid of the pain? Is it the needles? Or does it relate to an issue with personal space? The dental hygienist does have to work in some pretty close quarters.

Once you have done what you can to identify exactly what it is that scares you about going to the dentist, you can work with your dentist to address it. Once your dentist is aware of your fears, they can be your ally in overcoming them.

A few general tips to help include listening to music you enjoy during your treatment, to help you relax. People who are tense have a lower pain threshold, and that can add to your negative feelings. Your dentist may be able to offer additional treatment options like nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or anti-anxiety medication to help you get through the visit. You can always ask the dentist to go slow or to stop if you’re feeling any discomfort during your treatment.

Additional Treatment Options

If your fear comes because of a prior traumatic experience at the dentist’s office, you may need some extra help overcoming dental anxiety. You should remember, especially if it was a long time ago, that there have been a lot of advances in dental treatment over the years. Something that was very painful years ago may feel like little more than a gentle tug today.

If you find yourself crippled by anxiety in the days and weeks leading up to a routine trip to the dentist, a few sessions with a therapist can help you overcome the mental hurdle. It’s worth checking out your health and dental insurance benefits to see if these sessions are covered by your policy.

Start Young to Nip Problems in the Bud

An adult with a mild case of dental anxiety may be able to psych themselves up enough to make it through their regularly scheduled appointment. However, a child with a fear of the dentist doesn’t have the same internal resources to draw upon. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that children start seeing the dentist before their first birthday.

To help make sure that first visit sets your child up for a good relationship with the dentist for many years to come, try the following:

  • Choose a child-friendly office: Signs of a child-friendly dental office include toys in the waiting room and a cheerful interior. Before bringing your child in for a visit, talk to the dentist about what you can expect, and how they handle a nervous first-time visitor. Knowing what comes next can help you help your child feel at ease.
  • Talk to your child: Once you know what will happen during the first visit to the dentist, help prepare your child by telling her or him what’s happening. Your reassurance will go a long way to help ease any fears.
  • Be a good role model: Make sure young children know that going to the dentist is just a regular part of the routine for the whole family.

Why It’s So Important

Obviously, people who have no fear of going to the dentist have less trouble keeping their regular scheduled dental appointments. Predictably, people who avoid the dentist because of fear or anxiety have a higher risk of gum disease and early tooth loss. The problem worsens as their self-esteem can be affected by damaged or discoloured teeth.

Those who avoid the dentist also suffer from poorer health in general because of the correlation between inadequate dental care and other health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Taking the time to talk about your dental anxiety with your dentist can help you get on the road to better health. There are many ways to help ease your fears, and some of them may be covered under your health and dental insurance plan.


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