In this article, we will discuss the meaning of dental anxiety, indications you have dental anxiety, triggers of dental anxiety, and tips on overcoming the fear of dental visits or dental treatment.
Dentist anxiety, also called dental anxiety, is that feeling of nervousness or uneasiness whenever you’re going to visit the dentist. You can overcome this fear by taking medications for anxiety or distract yourself from what’s going on. It also helps to find a trustworthy dentist who gives you individual attention. Click here to find a dental practice that specializes in anxiety-free dentistry via meditation and mindfulness practices.
This term is also referred to as dental phobia or dental fear (dentophobia). Dental anxiety is the feeling of intense discomfort, nervousness, fear, or even panic when you have a dental appointment or dental procedure.
Although dental anxiety in children is more severe than adult anxiety, all people with this condition dread the same when going to the dentist.
It comes in different degrees. For some, it can be mild, while for others, it can be pronounced and extreme. It is also a prevalent condition as a lot of people dread being on the dental chair.
Because of this phobia, a lot of people avoid going for dental care. They can procrastinate or put it on hold for a long time. They only decide to check their oral health when they experience severe pain or have a dental condition that can only be addressed by going to the dentist.
Unknown to many people, fear of going to the dentist and putting your dental care on hold can have consequences. Such health issues include cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, premature delivery, and even diabetes.
Good oral health is key to avoiding other health complications and can only be achieved by going to the dentist regularly. It can be achieved by regular dental cleaning, examinations, and other procedures that keep your teeth strong and healthy.
So what are the indications that you have dental anxiety?
Indications You Have Dental Anxiety
Experiencing one or two of these indications is not enough to say that you have dental anxiety. However, if the thought of a dental experience makes you exhibit a good number of them, then you have dental anxiety.
- Lower blood pressure
- Uncomfortable feeling in your stomach
- Enhanced heart rate
- Hyperventilating or experiencing shortness of breath
- Panic attacks
- Not being able to sleep before the day you’re supposed to see your dentist
- Total discomfort
Triggers of Dental Anxiety
People have different reasons why they get uncomfortable or panic at the thought of visiting the dentist. Some of these reasons may be related to the appointment, while others have no connection whatsoever.
Below are some of the reasons people with this condition fear the dentist:
Negative Events in the Past
Specific negative experiences are the reasons why some people have dental anxiety. Such an individual doesn’t even have to hear the sound of the drill to feel such fear. They can experience it through watching a horror movie during childhood or watching the activities of a creepy dentist.
Such an experience is enough to alter your perception of what happens at the dentist’s and makes you develop such anxiety.
Feeling a Loss of Control
People with this condition find it difficult to stay calm or get comfortable once they’re at the dentist. Because of this, they’re not willing to allow the dentist to carry out their procedure on their teeth.
Having a Phobia for Anesthetics and the Effects of their Usage
Some people with this condition are scared of anesthetics such as laughing gas or nitrous oxide, frequently used during a dentist’s appointment.
Aside from numbness which is commonly experienced, certain people feel other effects such as being drowsy, nauseous, and faint.
For others, it can be more severe. For example, it can be tongue swelling, pain in their muscles, ear, or joints, enhanced thirst, and drooling.
Experiencing the abovementioned effects when anesthetics were used on you is enough to trigger dental anxiety.
Other Type of Phobias
While this doesn’t directly trigger dental anxiety, it can trigger the fear you feel when you’re about to go to the dentist. Other types of phobias include claustrophobia (phobia of small or confined spaces), agoraphobia (phobia of crowded places), and so on.
Certain Sounds that can Trigger Dental Phobia
Admittedly, the sound of the drill can unnerve you. You may be thinking, “Is this thing entering my mouth?” Such a sound is enough to trigger your fear.
Tips on How to Overcome Dental Anxiety
Knowing exactly what triggers your anxiety is a big step to learning how to overcome or, at the very least, cope with it. The following ways show you how to manage this anxiety.
While having a dental procedure or dental visit, deep breathing can help you cope with your anxiety. You can stay calm and composed.
The video below is one good example of a 10-minute meditation practice you can do before you go to the dentist:
Sedation dentistry is one way to help anxious patients. They simply sleep through the procedure and are spared the “agony” of watching the dentist work on their teeth.
You can indicate to the dentist when you’re feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed by raising your hand to signal them to stop or pause the procedure. This way, you don’t feel out of control.
Talking to the Dentist
Talking about your fears is a great way to cope with them. It’s like a relief, and it reduces some of the tension about the procedure. So, do not hesitate to tell your dentist how you’re feeling. They can offer great advice on how to stayed and that the process is not as scary as it seems.
Be Very Intentional with your Oral Health
Being very thorough with your oral health is one great way to cope with your dental anxiety. People with good oral health only go for minor examinations and checkups. No invasive procedures are needed.
Listening to Music
Music has an undeniable therapeutic effect on people. For example, listening to low-pitched soothing music can help you feel at ease while the dentist is at work.
Taking Anxiety Medications Before Going to the Dentist
You can also opt for anxiety medications if you experience dental anxiety. You can take some medication just before your appointment or before the actual procedure starts. The medication will help calm your nerves and help you overcome or cope with dental anxiety for the time being.