Dental phobia. It’s a real and visceral fear. It’s unsettling at best and at worst, it gets in the way of people getting the treatment they badly need.
Dental phobia is pretty common, affecting about 36% of people worldwide. You’re the farthest thing from alone when it comes to your fear of the dentist. In mild cases, the fear isn’t debilitating. But others are so terrified at the idea that they’d rather go years without getting their routine check-up.
Sometimes, it gets so bad that even a dental infection or painful wisdom teeth aren’t enough to get them out of the house for a consultation. The phobia can stem from a variety of factors: fear of injections, the anticipation of pain, sometimes even humiliation, and many more.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but some situations necessitate a dental visit. If the situation calls for it, here are ideas to help you ease your fears:
Find a distraction
What better way to cope with fear than trying to forget it’s there? Distraction comes in many forms. If you’re resourceful enough, you can always find a way to keep your mind and hands preoccupied instead of dwelling on your fear:
Here are some examples:
- Listen to calming music (or rock music, whatever floats your boat). Listen to podcasts. Anything interesting enough to steal your attention.
- If you’re more of a talker, engage your dentist or the dental assistant in a casual chat.
- Do breathing exercises.
- Bring a coloring book. Or knit.
- Hold a soft toy or squeeze a stress ball.
- Focus on the overhead TVs in the waiting room.
You may have heard of desensitization as a way to help people overcome irrational fears, like the fear of heights, the fear of spiders, the fear of enclosed spaces. This method can also be applied to your fear of the dentist.
It works by gradually reducing your anxiety by helping you get used to the cause of fear – in this case, your dental appointment.
As you get more exposed to the things and situations that trigger your fear, in a series of carefully guided steps, you eventually become desensitized.
In this case, it’s a good idea to get used to the dental clinic first before your treatment. Familiarize yourself with its sight, smell, and overall ambiance.
On your first appointment, you’ll just be coming in for a chat. You won’t be sitting in the chair yet. This gradual approach towards the thing that you fear (the treatment) reduces the fear factor. It also makes sure that you’re not overwhelmed.
Desensitization can be administered by a trained therapist, or your dentist, or yourself.
Ask Your Dentist About Sedation
If mental and psychological intervention alone doesn’t do the trick for you, you may consider sedation. It’s not the best option for everyone but you can talk to your dentist to explore your options.
There are three kinds of sedation available in dental clinics: IV sedation (administered via the vein into the bloodstream), inhalation (also known as laughing gas), and oral sedation (anti-anxiety tablets).
Sedation is an option for those who are about to undergo major procedures that they’d rather not be awake for (like wisdom tooth removal), or for those who are paralyzed by their fear. Some dentists also recommend it to simply help their patients relax.
Remember, while your oral health is a priority, it’s also okay to take a break at any point during your visit. It’s important your dentist knows about your fear so that they can help create an environment you’re comfortable with.
Meta title: How to Ease Dental Phobia
Meta description: Getting the right dental care is a priority. But what if your fear of the dentist is keeping you from getting the treatment you need? Here are ways to cope.