Ever had that knuckle-whitening, heart-stopping feeling as your dentist appointment looms closer on the calendar? Fear of the dentist affects one in seven Australians—the condition is almost as critical as oral hygiene problems.
While you may never get rid of your fear entirely, there are steps you can take to master it. Follow our tips to help you get into the dentist chair anxiety-free.
Is It a Fear or Phobia?
Fears and phobias aren’t the same. While many use the terms interchangeably, the two mindsets are different. Fear is a strong dislike. You might avoid what you fear, but it’s not necessarily something that overtakes your life. In contrast, a phobia is far stronger. They are a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias can impact your daily life.
Additionally, phobias tend to be unlikely to actually cause you harm.
Fear of the dentist might make you nervous, and avoid booking appointments. The look, sound, and feel of the instruments might be upsetting. However, you can put up with it. On the other hand, dentophobia causes such severe distress that even the thought of the dentist might cause panic attacks or nightmares.
Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist?
Unlike a fear of spiders or sharks, fear of the dentist might seem illogical. In most people, it’s caused by a negative experience. Children who fear the dentist may never shake off the feeling. Additionally, the tools that dentists use may be unfamiliar—we tend to fear what we don’t understand.
Moreover, worries of poor oral health sometimes manifest themselves as a fear of the dentist. If you haven’t been in more than six months, you might be afraid of receiving bad news. Dental procedures, such as tooth extraction, sound scarier than they are.
Why You Shouldn’t Avoid the Dentist
Unfortunately, avoiding the dentist isn’t as easy as living your life around other fears. Poor oral hygiene leads to numerous problems. Moreover, if you don’t attend routine checkups, minor issues may become severe ones requiring more extensive treatment. Biting the bullet and seeing your dentist every six months is better than undergoing dental procedures every few years.
Here is what dentist avoidance can lead to:
- Bad breath
- Cavities and decay
- Plaque and tartar build-up
- Tooth loss
- Gum disease
- Infected teeth
- Discoloured teeth
Gum disease is a more significant issue than you might think. Some scientists believe that there may be a correlation between gum disease and heart disease. Furthermore, some research suggests gum disease factors in the development of osteoporosis, lung infections, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Skipping the dentist is no light thing. Follow our tips to get yourself in that dentist chair as soon as possible.
Tips to Get Over Your Fear of the Dentist
Conquering your fear may not be easy. But follow our advice for the good of your oral hygiene.
1. Don’t Go Alone
There’s nothing worse than facing your fears alone. Take a friend or family member along to hold your hand while sitting in the chair. If they’re not allowed in the room with you, the thought of them waiting outside will still help you relax.
2. Listen to Music
Music is a great way to relieve your anxiety. When you get in the dentist chair, plug in your headphones, and try to ignore the outside world with your favourite playlist. Of course, you might need to pause your music to answer any questions.
3. Ask Questions
Many fears stem from a fear of the unknown. Dentists study their practice for years. You won’t know what each tool is for, which might inspire panic. The best way to get around this is to ask questions. Although—don’t speak when they have their hands in your mouth.
4. Find the Right Dentist
You need to be able to trust your dentist. If you’re with a dentist that doesn’t reassure you, consider changing to one specialising in dental phobia. As it’s such a common anxiety disorder, many dental practices have solutions to help the more nervous patients.
5. Sleep Dentistry
Sleep dentistry is a pain-free procedure. Your sleep dentist will sedate you, carry out the operation, and wake you up. Dentists offer general and local anaesthetic options to ensure your dentist appointment is as stress-free as possible.