Many dental practices have experience helping patients cope with their fears of dental care. They specialize in creating an environment of trust that helps the patient relax so they can get the dental care they need. From explaining what to expect and for how long to getting permission to continue, these dentists provide a framework built on the idea that the patient is in control and can leave whenever they want.
Techniques to cope with dental anxiety and fear
There are a few things you can do to address your anxieties as well, which could include:
- Research the practice. If you don’t know the dentist and his or her staff, go online and read their reviews and website. Call ahead and speak to the receptionist. If you like what you read and hear, consider setting up a consultation with the dentist (if he or she is willing and available) to get to know one another. Many times, once you are familiar with the surroundings and have established a rapport with your dentist, it will help calm your anxieties about upcoming procedures.
- Ask questions. Some of the anxiety can be related to a fear of the unknown. If the dentist or the hygienist wants to use a tool that scares you or suggests treatment with which you aren’t familiar, ask them about it. Knowing what to expect can help calm your fears in this area.
- Find a dentist that fits your personality. If you are nervous at the dentist’s office, be sure that the environment you are in is providing what you need to be calm. If you don’t like a business-like practice with a no-nonsense clinician, don’t go there. Find an office that makes you feel comfortable.
- Address the five senses. Dental care stimulates all five senses. Sometimes the stimulations can aggravate nervousness, such as the bright lights in your eyes or the grinding sound from the equipment. Consider a mask to block out the light or ear plugs to muffle the noise to nullify the unpleasant stimulations.
- Play mind games with yourself. There is a lot to be said for positive thoughts. If you can find your way to a happy place in your thinking, it can alleviate some of your anxiety about your upcoming dental appointment. Try distracting yourself in particularly nerve-wracking moments, like conjugating verbs in a foreign language or reciting the alphabet backward. Distraction can help you get through tough moments in the dental chair.
There are dental offices that offer specialized services to help reduce dental fear:
- Sedation dentistry offices use medications to help patients relax during procedures. DOCS sedation courses teach dentists the science of sedation, airway management and crucial skills for communicating with a sedated patient.
- NuCalm: NuCalm uses biochemistry, physics, and neurophysiology to rapidly and reliably relax brain and body functions. NuCalm is fairly recent to the field of dentistry.
It is important to communicate with your dental team, however, so they know you are experiencing feelings of anxiety associated with your visit so they can take appropriate actions to address your concerns.
Huffington Post has an excellent slide show with more suggestions for overcoming seven common fears of the dental office. To view the presentation, click here.
In some cases, particularly for patients that have dentophobia, help from a mental health professional might be helpful to conquer their fear of dental visits. Using a psychotherapy technique called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (a therapy designed to help patients change their thinking about problems), psychologists can help patient’s address their feelings and use techniques to manage their symptoms.
The vast majority of people have at least some degree of anxiety and fear about a dental visit. Some individuals, albeit a small number, might have severe anxiety that constitutes a phobia of dental care. The causes of the fear and anxiety vary, as can the intensity of the symptoms. However, the discomfort associated with their fear might lead to patients avoiding the dentist altogether. By finding a practice that feels right, communicating your concerns to your dental team, and using coping behaviors to manage your symptoms, many patients can overcome their fears of dental care and get the essential dental care they need.
7 Common Fears, And How To Conquer Them.” www.huffingtonpost.com. 13 February 2012. Web. 26 April 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/dental-phobia-fears-dentist_n_1257277.html>
Sine, Richard. “Don’t Fear the Dentist.” www.webmd.com. Web. 26 April 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dont-fear-the-dentist>
“Psychotherapy.” www.nami.org. Web. 26 April 2016. <https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Psychotherapy>