Dental phobia, also known as dental anxiety or dental fear, is a common problem that prevents many people from seeking the dental care they need. According to a survey conducted by the American Dental Association, 9-15% of Americans avoid going to the dentist due to fear or anxiety. This can have serious consequences, as untreated dental problems can lead to more serious health issues and a decreased quality of life.
The psychological effects of dental phobia can be significant. People with dental phobia may experience extreme anxiety or panic attacks when thinking about or facing a dental appointment. They may also experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness. In severe cases, dental phobia can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation.
There are many reasons why people develop dental phobia. Some people may have had a negative dental experience in the past, such as a painful procedure or a judgmental or insensitive dental professional. Others may have a general fear of pain or of being out of control in a medical setting.
Whatever the cause, it is important for people with dental phobia to seek help in order to overcome their fear and receive the dental care they need. Here are some strategies that can help:
- Find a compassionate and understanding dentist: A supportive and understanding dental team can make all the difference in easing dental anxiety. Look for a dentist who is patient, gentle, and willing to listen to your concerns. It may also be helpful to find a dental office with a calming atmosphere and amenities such as music or televisions to distract you during the appointment.
- Communicate your fears: Don’t be afraid to tell your dentist or dental hygienist about your anxiety. The more they understand your concerns, the more they can tailor their approach to meet your needs.
- Use relaxation techniques: There are many relaxation techniques that can help reduce anxiety during a dental appointment. Some options include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization. You can also bring headphones to listen to calming music or a guided meditation during your appointment.
- Consider sedation dentistry: For some people with severe dental phobia, sedation dentistry may be an option. This involves the use of medication to help you relax during the appointment. There are different levels of sedation available, ranging from inhaled nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) to intravenous (IV) sedation. Your dentist can help you determine which option is best for you.
- Seek support: It can be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or a support group about your dental phobia. They can provide coping strategies and help you work through the underlying causes of your anxiety.
Dental phobia is a common problem, but it is treatable. With the right support and strategies, you can overcome your fear and get the dental care you need to maintain good oral health.
- American Dental Association. (2018). Dental Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/anxiety
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Dental Phobia: How to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental-phobia/art-20044325
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2018). Dental Phobia. Retrieved from https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/anxiety-disorders