Heart beating fast? Is vision feeling fuzzy? Are Palms getting sweaty? If you’re feeling this way in the dentist’s office, chances are that you suffer from dental anxiety. Don’t worry! You’re not alone; It’s estimated that roughly 15 % of Americans suffer from dental anxiety. While going to the dentist may not be the best way to spend the day, it’s a crucial part of maintaining a beautiful smile. Not going to the dentist regularly can allow for seemingly small oral health issues, like small cavities, to progress into serious health issues that require extensive and often expensive treatment. In fact, avoiding the dentist can even cause your oral health to suffer to the point where you experience tooth loss. In the situation of tooth loss, we recommend our patients treat missing teeth as soon as possible with dental implants. Although implants are the most natural looking and long-lasting option, we always believe tooth loss prevention is the best option. So, what can individuals with dental anxiety do? Dr. Andrew Mortensen explains all about dental anxiety and how to cope with it for his patients here in Fountain Valley, CA.
Dental Anxiety vs Dental Phobia
Dental anxiety and dental phobia can sometimes be thrown around interchangeably, but there’s actually a big difference between the two. The big difference between the two is the level of anxiety or fear that an individual will have over the idea of dentist appointments. However, it’s important to note that whatever level of discomfort you feel due to the dentist, you should never keep you from having dental checkups altogether.
When an individual suffers from dental anxiety, they will usually feel uneasy about going to their dental appointment. On the extreme end of the spectrum, a phobia entails an individual feeling intense fear. Patients that suffer from a dental phobia will go to great lengths to avoid their fear and just the sight of a dentist’s office can induce terror and panic in them. This will often cause individuals with a dental phobia to avoid the dentist for years or even decades. As a result, those with dental phobia are typically at a higher risk for oral health problems like periodontitis and tooth loss.
Five Root Causes of Dental Phobia and Anxiety
Now that we know the difference between dental phobia and dental anxiety, let’s take a look at some of the common causes of these conditions. The specifics of causes can differ for each individual, but here’s a look at some of the general causes of phobia and anxiety:
- Bad Past Experiences: Experiences such as an uncaring dentist or a poorly treated case can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths over the dentist. After suffering through a bad experience, patients can fear having the same episode repeat during their next appointment. This then leads individuals to avoid going to the dentist anymore.
- Fear of Pain: This can most often be seen in older adults because they have experienced dentistry when technology was not as advanced as it is today. If an individual has experienced pain during their past dental appointments, that can be a cause of their current anxiety over going to a dentist again.
- Feeling Hopeless or Embarrassed: In some instances, patients can feel as though it is too late to do anything with their oral health. This hopeless feeling can stop patients from seeking out treatment when they really need it. Going along with this same point, patients can also often feel embarrassed about the state of their oral health. They fear being judged or scrutinized over their oral health and develop a fear of going to dental appointments.
- Fear of Loss of Control: Lying back with your mouth open can make a lot of people feel uneasy. If an individual struggles with fear of loss of control, going to the dentist can feel like an emotional challenge. The vulnerability that patients can feel during dental appointments can be enough to cause fear for many patients.
- Inherited Fear of Dentist: We all know that we can inherit our mannerisms and habits from our parents, but did you know we can pick up on their fears as well? Watching a parent struggle with dental anxiety or phobia can cause us to develop a fear as well. Many studies have also shown that parents’ commitment to oral health with also rub off on their children. So, if your parent has a dental fear and an apathy toward oral care, your smile will end up suffering as well.
How Can I Overcome Dental Anxiety of Phobia?
One of the first steps to overcoming anxiety or extreme fear is noticing that this fear will affect your smile, confidence, and oral health in the long run. If you’re already looking for solutions, you’re one step ahead of overcoming your fear. Here are some helpful tips that can ease your worry when heading into the dentist’s office.
- Speak with your dentist beforehand
- Bring a supportive friend or family member
- Distract yourself with mental games, music, etc.
- Consider anaesthetics
- Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing techniques
- Get professional help with a therapist
Contact our Office
Are you tired of feeling embarrassed over your smile? Has it been years since the last time you visited your dentist? Allowing a fear or phobia to keep your out of the dentist’s office can result in decaying oral health and a damaged smile. If you’ve already experienced some of the effects of this, such as tooth loss, contact our office. Leaving tooth loss untreated will only result in more and more problems for your remaining teeth and overall oral health down the road. The high-quality dental implants we offer here at our office can give you back a smile that you can feel confident with. To begin your dental implant process, contact our office today!