Does the idea of scheduling a dentist appointment give you knots in your stomach? Do you find yourself waiting until you have an unbearable toothache before making a trip to the dentist? Do the sterile smell of the office, feeling of latex gloves in your mouth, and/or the feeling and sound of the cold metal drill send you into a panic? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from dental phobia.
What is Dental Phobia?
While it is normal to have reservations about going to the dentist, being deathly afraid can be distressing and have negative consequences on your oral health due to avoiding appointments. Dental phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of going to the dentist. About 5 to 8 percent of American adults struggle with dental phobia and avoid the dentist as a result.
Causes and Triggers of Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia can be caused and/or triggered by:
- A Bad Past Experience
A painful or otherwise emotional experience with a dentist is the most common reason people develop a fear of going to the dentist. It is human nature to not want to repeat an experience that was painful or negative. The body stores trauma, so if there was trauma near your mouth area from a dentist, you most likely will be triggered every time you go to the dentist and have your mouth touched in the same way.
- Triggering from Other Trauma
It is possible that trauma from an unrelated experience (e.g. domestic violence, sexual abuse, being in the military, etc.) can trigger a fear of the dentist. While doing an oral examination, the dentist touching your mouth may bring back thoughts of your trauma. The feeling of having someone hover over you can also be similar to what you experienced in your trauma.
- Lack of Control
Reclining back in a dentist’s chair, having equipment in your mouth, someone touching your mouth, and someone hovering over you with a bright light in your eyes puts you in a position where you lack control. This can be especially traumatic if you are a survivor of trauma as mentioned in the previous bullet point.
Tips on Overcoming Dental Phobia
- Do Your Research on a Dentist That is Right for You
There are both good and bad in every profession. Finding a dentist that is right for you and is capable is of meeting your needs will make the experience less anxiety-producing.
- Communicate with Your Dentist and Staff
Communicate with the dentist and staff about any bad past experiences or trauma (that you are comfortable sharing) that may be triggered by being in the dental chair. Also, communicate with them about your pain threshold. While a dental procedure never feels great, it should not be unbearably painful. Let them know during the procedure if it is too painful.
- Go for Regular Well-Visits
Going for regular well-visits will help keep your teeth healthy and catch any problems in their early stages to avoid invasive procedures that may be painful. The more often you go to the dentist and have a good experience, the more successful you will be at overcoming dental phobia. The more you give in to fear, the more power that you give it.
- Take Anti-Anxiety Medications if Necessary
If your dental phobia is very severe, one option may be to visit a psychiatrist and get anti-anxiety medication to take before the visit.
North View Dental is located in Ogden, Utah. Their team understands that going to the dentist can be an anxiety-producing situation, and they do their best to make sure every patient is comfortable. Call them today to schedule an appointment.