Did you know that an estimated 9-15% of Americans avoid the dentist because of anxiety?
This opens up the danger of increasingly serious dental problems. The hygienist and dentist have the knowledge and ability to find problems before they actually begin. For example, if we take radiographs at each checkup, otherwise known as bitewings, the dentist can see the start of a cavity while it is forming. In turn, you will know to brush better and floss in that area, you can be more aware of what is happening inside your mouth. If you put this preventive treatment off, your non-existent cavity could become a literal pain, which will require a more invasive treatment. All of this combined tends to make the patient more anxious about the office visit. It is a vicious cycle. Let’s learn to break this cycle!
The cause of dental anxiety is different for everyone.
- We hear that people have had a negative past experience that has led to a fear.
- Another is a severe gag reflex or sensitive teeth.
- Fear of needles would be the most common. We see people that come in who say they can handle a needle anywhere, except in their mouth.
- People also have a fear of the unknown, they are not sure if the procedure will hurt or what exactly the procedure entails.
- Another common fear is simple embarrassment over the state of their oral health.
New research is showing that the brain reacts to sights and sounds of the dental office, like the whine of the hand piece, in especially negative ways. For fearful patients, office stimuli impact areas of the brain associated with learning and memory, which is exactly why dental anxiety can run so deep. Present experiences are linked to bad memories from the past , making it difficult to overcome.
There are several ways to leave the fear in the past.
• The first step is seeing your dentist on a regular basis. One checkup every 6 months or 2 times yearly is a good rule of thumb to follow. If your dentist thinks you need to be seen more frequently he or she will advise you at your checkup.
• Communication is a necessity. Talk to your dental assistant and tell them your concerns so they can tailor a treatment plan that will best reduce your anxiety.
• The more you learn about the upcoming procedure, the less frightening it will seem. Reality is usually less frightening than your imagination.
• There are several dentists that offer a type of sedation dentistry. From nitrous to anesthesia you can find a dentist that will cater to your needs. Sedation calms the nervous system and prevents panic and improve your dental experience.
• The most important step is great brushing and flossing, this will prevent cavities and gingivitis to reduce your need for fillings or any other restorative dental procedures.
By realizing what causes the fear you are having, learning ways to cope, and finding a dentist that suits your personality, you will be on the road to leaving your fear of the dentist behind