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Is Dental Fear Real?

A young girl sitting in the dentist chair looking scared

Many people express having anxiety about trips to the dentist and some people avoid the dentist entirely because this anxiety is so great. It has been found that approximately 9-15% of Americans avoid visiting the dentist because of anxiety or fear. This anxiety can range anywhere from a mild worry to odontophobia, which is an intense, unreasonable fear of the dentist and dental procedures. Regardless of the severity of dental fear, it exists and is a very real reason people avoid the dentist.

However, avoiding the dentist can have serious consequences to your oral health. Without regular dental checkups and cleanings, certain dental conditions can develop to such an extent that they require more extensive treatment when they are finally diagnosed. Much of modern dentistry aims at preventative care, but without regular visits certain conditions cannot be prevented. Furthermore, by the time people who fear the dentist come in, they are usually already in pain making treatment more complicated. The best way to have a positive dental experience is to visit the dentist before symptoms have developed. There are also a few other things that can be done to help alleviate dental fear.

One of the first things is to pick a good dentist who you are comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to shop around until you find a dentist that meets your personal needs. Things such as location, payment options, their personality and ability to converse with you, and the friendliness of the office staff are all factors that you will want to consider. To get a good starting point, you can always ask family and friends for referrals and go from there.

Another important part of choosing the right dentist is finding someone who will answer all your questions and help you feel more in control about your dental care.  Many patients express anxiety over feeling a loss of control. An easy way to remedy this is to ask questions about your care, the procedure, and your concerns. This will help you to know what to expect and can help you to prepare accordingly.

To further alleviate your anxiety about dental treatments, ask questions about the dental tools. Many people are intimidated by dental tools, however most of these tools are painless. Understanding what they are and how they work will stop you from imagining horrific scenarios.

If you find that the tools still bother you no matter what, you can ask that the tools not brought out until the time of your procedure so you don’t have to look at them. If the sounds of the dental office bother you, try bringing headphones to listen to. Music serves as a good distraction and can give your mind something else to focus on while also drowning out unwanted noise.

As a final resort, you can ask your dentist about sedation dentistry. There are various sedation options that can help relax you and make your experience less stressful. Many dentists realize that people have dental fear and only want to help accommodate your needs. At Bethesda Family Dentistry, we want to make your experience as pleasant as possible, so book a consultation with Dr. Tabb today!