Do you have a fear of the dentist? If you do, you are not alone. Approximately 40% of Canadians experience some form of anxiety before or during a visit to the dentist. Some experience a fear that is so debilitating they avoid dental visits and treatment altogether.
As you can imagine, this has serious consequences on one’s oral health. If you suffer from any type of dental anxiety, there are things you can do to help ease your fear so you can keep that appointment.
What Causes Dental Anxiety and Your Fear of the Dentist?
There is any number of reasons you may have a fear of going to the dentist. A big one for a lot of people is fear of pain or the lack of comfort.
This could stem from a traumatically painful dental visit in your childhood, or you’ve heard one too many horror stories about root canals. Not to mention, the tools used during dental procedures can be seemingly out of a horror film, despite their safety in use.
Another cause of dental anxiety is having someone so close to them during their appointment. They may be self-conscious about bad breath, the condition of their teeth and oral health, or patients might simply feel uncomfortable being that close to a stranger.
Loss of control can be another big factor in one’s anxiety. It is abnormal to feel uneasy ss you lay reclined in a dental chair with your mouth wide open. It’s natural that you may feel a bit vulnerable!
When you add up all these factors, it is easy to see how patients would bear a lot of anxiety for dental procedures.
Symptoms of Dental Anxiety
Do you lose sleep the night before your dental appointment? Feel as if butterflies are dancing the Macarena in your stomach in the waiting room? Experience an intense need to escape as soon as your dental hygienist picks up the first tool?
All of these are symptoms of dental anxiety. Anxiety is caused by a release of hormones associated with our ‘fight or flight’ response. When your body perceives something as a threat, it prepares you to either fight your way out of it or run to avoid danger. This is a powerful response that many cannot overcome.
Luckily, there are coping mechanisms that you can deploy if you find yourself suffering from fear of dental care.
How to Deal With Dental Anxiety
There are a million ways people cope with anxiety. In a way, patients with dental anxiety can consider themselves almost lucky. You know exactly what is making you anxious – going to the dentist. Using some of these ideas may require some courage, they are sure to help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety you feel surrounding your dental treatment.
Explain How You Feel
Trust us, your dental professional is no stranger to dental anxiety. Their main goal is to find a way to make you comfortable so that you can maintain your routine dental visits.
Make sure to mention that you have some anxiety surrounding your visit when you make your appointment, and again when you arrive. Mention it to everyone who enters your room – the hygienist, x-ray technician, and your dentist! This will go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable as they can take the anxiety off your shoulders.
They have a lot of experience reassuring patients with dental anxiety and will take extra time to explain what they’re doing and how it might make you feel. This kind of open communication can also help patients get to know their dentist, which will also make patients more comfortable.
Try to Stay in the Moment
It may sound a bit cliche but staying in the moment during your appointment can help keep you focused on yourself and not the dentist.
A lot of the time, the anticipation of what is to come is way worse than the actual treatment. Before your next appointment, try simple mindfulness techniques while you’re in the waiting. Count your breaths as you slowly inhale and exhale. Of course, there are multiple ways to meditate and calm yourself, so research some options that work for you!
Distraction is useful for procrastination and several other bad habits, but it might be a great choice in curbing your anxiety. Try bringing your favourite book to read in the waiting room or listen to relaxing music on your headphones.
You may also consider bringing a stress ball with you to your visit, or a fidget spinner to help keep your hands, and your brain, occupied. Anything that you can focus on to stave off your fear and keep you busy!
Remember You are Not Alone
It may be hard, but no matter how frightened you are of visiting the dentist, know that you are in good company. Plenty of our patients experience dental anxiety, and we have even helped many of them to overcome their fears.
Remember, your dental team understands your dental anxiety and only wants to ensure you receive the best care and treatment.
Be sure to vocalize your anxiety, and we’ll do everything in our power to help ease your mind. You’ll thank yourself for being forward!