By Dr. Michael Handler
Are you afraid of visiting the dentist?
A big percentage of Canadians worry before their dental appointment, and many of them avoid regular dental check-ups due to extreme fear. Unlike some phobias that don’t need addressing, routine dental appointments are too vital to your health to skip.
There are many reasons that you might fear the dentist. Perhaps you had a painful experience in the dental chair when you were young. Some of the other reasons can be:
- A fear that the dentist will cause you pain
- Panic when you hear the sound of the drill
- The nervousness of having someone working in your mouth
- The embarrassment that you haven’t taken care of your teeth
If this sounds like you, there are ways to minimize your dental anxiety so you don't have to skip routine dental exams.
People with extreme dental anxiety do everything possible to avoid going to the dentist – perhaps only going when extreme pain forces them to. They know that this fear is irrational but are unable to do much to change it. Some other signs of extreme dental anxiety include:
- Trouble sleeping the night before a dentist appointment.
- Nervous feeling that get worse in the dentist’s waiting room.
- Getting to the dentist’s office but being unable to enter.
- Crying or being physically ill at the very thought of visiting the dentist.
What to do about dental fear and anxiety?
If you’re wondering whether you should talk with your dentist about your fears and worries, the answer is definitely yes. If your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she can better work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable.
Here are some strategies to help you cope with dental anxiety:
- Ask your dental provider to explain what’s happening at every stage of the appointment or procedure so that you can be mentally prepared for what’s to come.
- Establish a stop signal, such as raising your hand, to let your provider know that you’d like them to stop what they’re doing immediately. Use it if you become uncomfortable, want to rinse your mouth or need to catch your breath.
- If sounds are the issue, you can use earbuds to listen to your favorite music and relax.
- Arrive on time for your appointment, but not too early.
- If your anxiety is severe, your dentist might recommend using nitrous oxide gas or sedation to help calm it.
Do You Have Dental Anxiety?