Do you have an unmitigated fear of the dentist? Have you been putting off your dental checkup for months, even years, because you’re overwhelmed at the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair? If this sounds like you, then you may have dental anxiety.
Dental Anxiety Symptoms
Dental anxiety can bring up a lot of painful feelings, including panic, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and intense feelings of helplessness. Maybe the thought of going to the dentist quite literally makes you feel physically ill, or perhaps you are nervous just sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. If you find yourself ruminating over the thought of your dental exam, then perhaps it is time to overcome your fears.
Fear of the dentist is universal. For decades, researchers have conducted studies on people who have dental fear and avoidance, in an attempt to learn how to assuage their fears and give them the strength to sit through regular dental visits. Research has shown that behavioral therapy in conjunction with the use of general anesthesia was very successful in participants, even those who had no hopes of ever overcoming their dental anxiety!
In addition, dental anxiety is also easily picked up by children. One study found that conditioning seemed to be largely responsible for children’s fear of the dentist. If you have mild dental anxiety, then more exposure or knowledge may be all you need to overcome your fears.
Many people who are afraid of the dentist need to find the right one who will put them at ease. Talk to your dentist honestly about your fears, and they should do everything they can to make you comfortable.
Coping methods you can practice yourself include breathing exercises, relaxation techniques (such as picturing a positive, relaxing image), or even requesting your dentist to allow you to listen to music that calms you down.
If these techniques are not enough for you, there is always the option of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), sedation, or topical anesthetics to help with pain control. Talk to your dentist about what will work best for you.
Dr. Stratman of Stratman Family Dentistry understands that going to the dentist is not easy for everyone. However, skipping dental appointments can lead to serious problems such as tooth loss. If you are afraid of the dentist, give us a call and we can help you with our gentle and friendly family dentistry.