It is no secret that dental health is suffering on a global level, and the world’s leading economies such as Germany, United Kingdon, and the United States, surprisingly or not, are no exception. The key reason for the variety of unaddressed teeth issues, among others, is the fear of the dentist, also known as dental anxiety.
Is this phobia the same as any other fear people may have? Probably, but at the same time it is very unique and can be controlled differently.
So, here are the most frequently asked questions about dental anxiety whose answers, hopefully, will help you join the small percentage of patients who do not fear the dentist chair.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is the feeling of uneasiness every time a person thinks of dental procedures or when they visit a dental office. Such anxiety, more often than not, stops people from visiting the dentist regularly and in some cases, due to their extreme degree of dental anxiety, some people never see a dentist in their life. Other people, who force themselves to visit the dental office, may feel their anxiety by being nauseous while they are in the waiting room or by not sleep the night before their dental appointment.
Who Can Suffer From Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety affects people of any age. From children who have bad experiences with dentists and grow to be extremely scared of dental procedures to adults who have never visited a dentist in their life, anyone can suffer from dental anxiety, including you.
Is Dental Anxiety Common?
You would be surprised how extremely common dental anxiety is.
According to research done from the Journal of the American Dental Association, nearly 75% of Americans experience some type of fear in regards to undergoing dental procedures and generally visiting a dentist. About 5-10% of those people have a fear of the dentist so intense that they can be considered sufferers of dental phobia. So yes, dental anxiety, as we can conclude, is way more common than it really needs to be.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
In the majority of cases, people fear and avoid the dentist because of a prior traumatic experience they had. However, this is not always the case. As mentioned, there are patients with dental anxiety who have never visited a dentist, yet severely fear the experience.
These are the most typical dental anxiety causes:
Fear of Pain
The fear of pain is the most common reason why some people have a hard time visiting a dentist. This usually stems from a previous experience that was painful or unpleasant and it can even origin from “dental horror stories” told by others.
When surveying people who had not visited a dentist for a year, 6% reported that the fear of pain is the main reason. Such fear was most expressed by 24-year-old adults or older which means that had their first experiences with dentists back in the time when “pain-free” dentistry did not exist.
In this sense, thanks to the advanced technology our dental offices utilize today, we can guarantee you less painful dental procedures. Our team of professionals will take good care of you and will assure you are not feeling anxious nor scared during the whole process.
Feeling of Embarrassment
While this may sound strange, the truth is that many people feel embarrassed when others are looking inside their mouths. It is a very intimate part of the body so it is completely reasonable to feel some sort of uncomfortableness when a stranger gets physically close to it.
The feeling of embarrassment oftentimes is initiated by the thought of possible mouth odors or self-consciousness about the appearance of the teeth.
Fear of Injections
Did you know that approximately 50 million Americans fear needles?
This condition, also called trypanophobia, is among the top-ten American fears and it represents a phobia of medical procedures that involve hypodermic needles and injections. Reasonably, a large number of people who fear injections or needles in general, are very anxious and uncomfortable every they get in contact with them, including the times when they visit a dental office.
To help you with this problem, our skilled dentists will make sure to not use a needle until it is absolutely necessary while still providing you with a painless and professional operation.
Feeling of Helplessness
The feeling of helplessness and having no control over a certain situation is an adverse feeling for many. Such situations, including flying in an airplane or sitting on a dental chair, due to the loss of control, make the fear sufferers extremely uneasy and tense. Every time people feel helpless in a situation, it triggers their anxiety, which in this case is dental anxiety.
With our friendly approach, we can guarantee you will never feel helpless when visiting either one of our dental offices. Our dentists will communicate with you during the whole procedure and will inform you about the current and upcoming steps. This way you will feel control over the situation at all times, assuring you are never feeling powerless.
While these are the most frequent causes of dental anxiety there are also others among which you can find trust issues, previous trauma to the head and neck, the unpleasant smell of the dental chemicals, the sound of the machines, etc.
What Are the Dental Anxiety Symptoms and Signs?
Even though everyone experiences dental anxiety in different ways, some of the most common signs and signals for this type of fear include:
- Feeling physically ill when thinking of visiting the dentist
- Having trouble sleeping the night before a dental procedure or dental exam
- Feeling nervousness that escalates while waiting to be examined
- Having trouble breathing or feeling panic when objects are placed inside your mouth during dental appointments
How Does Dental Anxiety Affect Oral Health?
Dental anxiety stops you from regularly visiting a dentist, and by avoiding the dentist you put yourself in the risk of developing serious dental diseases that will later require more complex treatments and emergency care. This situation, known as the ‘vicious cycle of dental anxiety’ involves people fearing the end result so much that they ultimately receive it just because they were anxious to prevent it in the first place.
The good thing is – the majority of complicated dental issues are easily preventable because they are lifestyle-related. By doing routinely dental check-ups, screening X-rays and cleans can prevent diseases and help the dentists detect problems early so that less invasive and simpler treatments will be required.
How to Cope With Dental Anxiety?
If you ever get nervous when visiting a dentist, just know that you are not alone. We, as a professional team of dentists, come across many patients that fear dental procedures, on a daily basis. Fortunately, there is a way we can help you ease your anxiety and properly cope with it.
Talk to Your Dentist
First things first, you have to let your dentist know about your anxiety. Dentists are not mind-readers so you will have to speak up. By allowing the dental team to know your fears, they will be able to treat you appropriately to your concerns and needs.
In this sense, we advise you not to be afraid to ask questions or express if you ever experience pain during the dental procedure. Before the process even begins, it is important to talk with your dentist about the pain, as well as come up with communication methods that will make the whole process more comfortable.
Another way to help yourself manage your dental anxiety is by distracting yourself. Even though it may seem impossible, try to take your mind off the dental exam. For this purpose, you can play with a small object such as a fidget spinner, squeeze a stress ball, imagine a happy place or listen to music on your headphones. Whatever it is that works for you, do the things that distract your thoughts so the process can be more bearable.
Relax Your Mind
Lastly, be mindful. As we all know, relaxation begins in the mind, which means that you are the only one who can convince your brain to loosen up. Some of the best mindfulness techniques include meditation and counting your breaths during the whole procedure.
Conclusively, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask your doctor to help you overcome your dental anxiety. After all, our dental specialists are well trained and best know how to handle your fear. Before sitting down the chair, share your fears with our doctors and allow them to provide you with the best experience possible.