When you see a patient in his late 40s expressing fear of dentists and dental clinics, the fear was so intense that patient was sweating right at the reception. He has had a traumatic experience with a dentist when he was much younger and it has linger on for several years.
Dental anxiety is real, It is reported that as much as 15% of patients have phobia for visiting the dentists. You, as a patient have lot of roles to play in easing any kind of anticipated phobia for a check-up or treatment. Whether we like it or not, we would still find our way to the dentist especially when that toothache becomes unbearable or life-threatening in some cases.
Are you still battling with the fear of visiting the dentist? In Psychology Today, the following tips has been highlighted to emotionally desensitize yourself before your next dental visit:
- “It’s going to hurt!” — If you’re nervous about pain, let your dentist know; she can administer anesthesia comfortably so you don’t have to suffer. Afraid of needles? Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) works well to help you relax first. If nitrous oxide isn’t enough to dull your senses, sedation dentistry is common, and all you need is a designated driver to shuttle you to and from your appointment. For patients who can’t get past an unrelenting fear of the dentist, this is usually the best option.
- Bad experience in the past — This seems to be the second most common complaint of apprehensive patients. Sometimes the overall experience of the appointment leaves you feeling unsettled — or worse, repulsed. Perhaps the office over-billed you, the hygienist wasn’t thorough, the assistant was annoying, or the dentist was insensitive. It happens, and it’s unfortunate. But it shouldn’t prejudice you against future visits either (whether with the same dentist or a new one). It’s almost always helpful to tell dental staff about your past experience, so they can understand exactly what offended you. It may require some patience, but you should be able to find a team that will be a good fit for you. And that can make all the difference.
- Feelings of helplessness or loss of control — Not being able to talk or being confined to a chair with a “noose” around your neck (not to mention being drill-shy) can evoke feelings similar to claustrophobia(Fear of being confined to a space). If this is you, let the assistant know at the beginning of the appointment how you’re feeling. During the appointment, raise a hand to take a break (and they can stretch their backs at the same time).
- Embarassment about your oral health — You may have gone years without a cleaning. Maybe you put off treatment, and you’re embarrassed or ashamed by the compromised state of your mouth, or what the dentist might say to you. But consider: dental professionals have seen it all. It won’t phase them, so it shouldn’t phase you either.
- Anxiety About Cost — Dental work can be expensive, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover it. Still, regular appointments with your hygienist help reduce the need for more costly treatments later on. When a filling or crown is necessary, however, talk to the office manager about payment options. Most offices will work with you to create a comfortable financial arrangement. Plus, check your area for free or low cost clinics. If you’re near a dental school, students are always looking for patients. And they work under close supervision, so no need to worry. (Sometimes they even pay you to be their patient!)
If you experience any of these worries (or others not mentioned here), they can all be overcome. First, give your nerves an assessment. Do you have an intense, irrational fear—or phobia—of the dentist? It’s possible that this heightened level of fright might be alleviated only through working with a mental health professional
Communicate your feelings to your practitioner. And try this trick: feel gratitude for your teeth and for your access to good care. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are more optimistic, healthier, get better sleep, and, in turn, experience less anxiety.