If you have been avoiding the dentist because of fear, you are not alone.
Dental phobias are among the most common fears, and in some cases they can be debilitating.
The reasons behind a dental phobia are many. In some cases the dental phobia arose because of a past experience with a bad dentist – one who did not take pain control seriously enough. In other cases fear of the dentist is a manifestation of a deeper anxiety. No matter what the cause, it is possible to overcome your fear of the dentist and get the care you need to keep your teeth looking their best. Here are some tips to get you started.
#1. Find the Right Dentist
If you have a fear of the dentist, it is extremely important to choose the right dental professional. Not all dentists are equally skilled at working with patients who have a dental phobia, so choose your provider with care.
Seek out reviews of area dentists, talk to other patients and reach out to the office staff. You can learn a lot just by talking to others who share your same fear of the dentist.
#2. Consider Sedation Dentistry
If you think you need a lot of dental work done, you might want to consider a dentist who uses sedation for routine dental care. Sedation dentistry can be an excellent alternative for those with dental phobias, since it eliminates most of the pain and fear associated with a trip to the dentist.
When you call the office, ask if they offer sedation dentistry and find out as much as you can about how they operate. The more you know about their practices, the more comfortable you will be when you head out for your appointment.
#3. Be Honest About Your Fears
The worst thing you can do is try to hide your fear of the dentist. No matter which dentist you choose, you should be open and honest about how you feel and why you feel that way.
Whether your dental phobia is the result of a bad experience in the past or a more generalized anxiety, a good dentist will understand your concerns and help you work through them. Whether they provide you with medication to help you relax, employ sedation for routine dental care or just help you work through your fear, a good dentist will be willing to go the extra mile to soothe their anxious patients.
#4. Visit the Dentist Regularly
It may seem counterintuitive, but visiting the dentist regularly is one of the best ways to cure a dental phobia. The more you visit the more you will see that going to the dentist is no big deal, and that there is nothing to worry about.
Visiting the dentist on a regular basis will also allow your dentist to spot problems early – when they are easier and less painful to treat. If your dentist spots a bit of plaque and treats it with a good cleaning, you head off a cavity and a filling later on.
#5. Take Care of Your Teeth at Home
Taking care of your teeth between dental visits is essential, especially for patients with dental anxieties. The better your oral hygiene at home, the more routine your office visits will be. Brushing your teeth after every meal and before bedtime, flossing regularly and eating a healthy diet can prevent cavities and stop dental problems in their tracks.
If you care of your teeth properly at home, you might find yourself looking forward to your next trip to the dentist. Over time, you will see that those regular cleanings and exams are no big deal and that there is truly nothing to be afraid of.
Dental phobias are all too common, but there is no reason to succumb to them. No matter how severe your fear of the dentist there are ways to overcome the problem and help you get the dental care you need.
Dr Gerald O’Connor is the principal dentist and owner of Killiney Dental. Dr O’Connor graduated with an honours dental degree from University College Cork in 1998. He has since worked as a general dental surgeon in the UK and Ireland and has over 20 years experience in the dental field, with a particular interest in cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Dr O’Connor is an active member of the Irish Dental Association, sitting on its Quality Patient Safety Committee, and is a Irish Dental Council registered dentist.