Millions of Americans avoid going to the dentist for one surprising reason: dental phobia. While it's normal to feel some anxiety associated with visiting your dentist, true dental phobia goes far beyond nervousness. In fact, it can be truly debilitating, resulting in an avoidance of seeking dental care for years. But good oral hygiene is important-- not only to the health of your mouth, but to the health of your entire body. Thus, finding ways to cope with dental phobia is essential. Consider the following tips to help alleviate your fear of the dentist:
Be honest about your concerns. Tell your dentist upfront about your anxiety and what specifically causes it. For example, some people fear pain while others fear a loss of control during treatment. Be honest about your fears so that your dentist can help you develop a plan for comfortable treatment.
Ask what to expect. For many people, dental phobia stems from a fear of not being able to control the situation. In order to help combat this fear, ask your dentist to walk you through the entire procedure before he starts. Knowing what to expect in advance will eliminate any surprises and help alleviate anxiety.
Use a sign. Before treatment begins, establish a signal that you'll use to let your dentist know when you need a break. The signal can be something as simple as raising one hand into the air. This will let your dentist know that you need a break to calm down and focus on your breathing.
Bring your favorite music along. Distraction is often a useful tool for combating anxiety. Consider bringing along some of your favorite relaxing music to play during your treatment. Focus on the music instead of the procedure.
Discuss sedation dentistry: IV sedation anesthesia can dramatically reduce or eliminate anxiety. If you need a lot of catch-up dental treatment, often it can all be accomplished in one comfortable visit with sedation anesthesia.
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.