At 23rd Street Dental, dentists in Oklahoma City, we want to ensure all our patients have the best experience possible. However, even though regular dental care is vital for maintaining healthy teeth and gums, visiting the dentist can be an uncomfortable experience for some, leading them to avoid regular dental care. When a person is afraid, stressed, or anxious about being in a dental setting, this is known as dental anxiety.
Have you ever dealt with dental anxiety? You are not alone. Multiple studies show that this is a universal experience that affects people of all ages and cultures. One study estimates that as much as 36 percent of the population is affected by dental anxiety. Are you experiencing dental anxiety? If so, we’ve gathered some reasons why you might be dealing with it and some ways to help get you back in the dental chair.
Common causes of dental anxiety
The first step in dealing with dental anxiety is by working to understand where those fears are coming from in the first place. There are many reasons why people experience dental anxiety, and we’ll discuss some of the most common ones.
One of the main reasons folks cite for avoiding the dentist is the fear of pain. This fear can stem from a range of things, for example a distressing early dental experience and/or an unpleasant dental story told by another. Fortunately, most of today’s dental procedures are a lot less painful (or even pain-free) than even a decade ago.
Another big fear is the fear of needles. Many people are afraid of needles, especially when inserted into their mouth. Fortunately, advances have been made in making dental treatments less invasive, including painless numbing agents.
For some patients, their discomfort is due to the smell of certain chemicals or a hospital-like environment. These days, many practices are ditching sterile environments for more inviting spaces and tranquil music. Another distressing environmental issue that patients have reported is the sound of dental tools. Fortunately, quieter drills and other dental tools are much more common nowadays.
Certain feelings can also lead to dental anxiety. This includes the feeling of a lack of control and/or helplessness sitting in the dental chair while a dentist or hygienist works right in your personal space. Or, in some cases, embarrassment is also a powerful motivator. Some patients say they’re embarrassed at the state of their oral health, leading them to avoid appointments or procedures. But it’s important to remember that dentists are professionals that are used to seeing teeth and gums in all different stages and there will be no judgment.
Overcoming dental anxiety
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to manage dental anxiety. Here’s a list of our top tips:
- Talk to your dentist about your fear and anxiety. Once you’ve figured out where they’re coming from, you two can work out a plan. For example, if the feeling of helplessness is one of your stressors, have your dentist explain what’s happening at every stage during the procedure.
- Establish a hand signal to let your dentist know if you want them to stop right away.
- Practice deep breathing techniques and/or meditation.
- Don’t arrive too early for your appointment. (This way your anxiety won’t have time to ramp up beforehand.)
- Bring a friend or loved one for support.
- Ask your dentist ahead of time if you can bring a blanket, watch a movie, or listen to an audiobook or music during your procedure.
- Schedule your next appointment before you leave the office.
If your dentist doesn’t take your concerns seriously, it’s time to find a new one. Dental care doesn’t have to be scary. Not when patients are provided the compassion and respect they deserve.
A note on dental phobia
This is an extreme form of dental anxiety, leaving sufferers panicked and terrified of going to the dentist. They’re usually aware that their fear is irrational but are unable to do anything about it without help. An estimated 12 percent of the population experience dental phobia.
We’re here to help you
At 23rd Street Dental, your comfort and care are our top priorities. Our team will do everything possible to make your visit an enjoyable one. We’ll explain the procedure in advance, and we will not proceed until you feel comfortable and ready to go. If at any point you need a break, please say so and we will be happy to give you the time you need.
Ready to schedule your next appointment? Contact our office today.