Are you afraid to go to the dentist? If so, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, so is Dr. Eddie Choi—our own dentist!
According to WebMD, between 9 and 20% of Americans experience some sort of dental anxiety or fear. At a higher level, this anxiety can create a dental phobia, or a panic about going to the dentist. Unfortunately, some allow this fear to prevent them from seeing their dentist regularly, and most will only visit the dentist once they are in extreme pain.
Signs that you might be afraid to go to the dentist include:
• Trouble sleeping the night before your dental appointment
• Nervousness at the dental office waiting area that gets worse as time passes
• Becoming emotional at the thought of going to the dentist; crying or feeling nauseated
• Intense uncomfortableness when a dental instrument is placed into the mouth
• Feeling panicked that it is difficult to breathe during a dental procedure
Common Fears About Going to the Dentist
There are common fears that create anxiety and phobia about seeing a dentist:
• It will hurt. People can develop anxiety based on a bad past experience. They can also build up anxiety after someone else tells them a “horror story” about their own dental experience. But with today’s dentistry, most procedures are pain free, and any uncomfortableness is generally incurred through the healing process following an invasive procedure such as dental surgery.
• The anesthetic won’t work. In addition to being afraid of needles, some people fear that the anesthetic will not be adequate enough, and that they will experience some sort of pain when the dentist begins to work. Dentists are trained in how to administer and monitor anesthetics, so there is generally no need to worry. If you do have a fear, address it with your dentist and perhaps come up with a hand signal you can offer if you are feeling anxious while the dentist is working on your teeth.
• Dislike of the anesthetic side effects. Having your lips, cheeks and tongue feeling numb is unpleasant, but the effects of the anesthetic are temporary and will go away in a couple of hours. Other people may be afraid they will have a stronger reaction to the anesthetic. Your dentist will take a complete medical history on your first appointment, so point out any allergies or concerns at that time.
• Invasion of space. Having masked faces intensely peering into your mouth can be disconcerting, but it is necessary for the dentist and any assistants to be able to provide good oral health care. Close your eyes and wear headphones playing your favorite music to take your mind off the procedure.
• Loss of control. Sitting in a dental chair surrounded by the dental professionals, and not knowing what they will be doing next can create anxiety. Many dentists tell the patient what they are going to do next to avert any anxiety. If your dentist does not, ask them to.
• Embarrassment. If you know your teeth are in bad condition, or that you have bad breath, you may be inclined to feel embarrassed to reveal that to your dentist. Your dentist is used to all kinds of dental conditions and is there to help you. Perhaps just seeing the dentist will cure any of these types of problems.
Ways to Avoid Dental Anxiety
There are several techniques you can try to help you feel more comfortable and at ease during your dental visit.
• Speak with your dentist about your anxiety. He or she may have recommendations that work for other patients.
• Create a signal, like raising your hand, if you need the dentist to stop working on you.
• Use meditation to quell anxiety or bring along headphones with your favorite music.
• Have your dentist talk you through any procedures. (Beware: sometimes we can’t get Dr. Eddie to stop talking!)
• Take a prescribed anti-anxiety medication prior to going to the dentist. Be sure to check with your dentist ahead of time before taking it to ensure that your medication will not have any bad interaction with any anesthesia or other applications your dentist will be using.
• Request nitrous oxide, or relaxing gas.
Although dental anxiety and dental phobia is a real thing, with real symptoms, it often stems from a misconception or harmful self talk. Try to rationalize with yourself that your fear is just that, a fear, and not grounded in reality. And feel free to talk with us about your fear. We understand and can help.
Visit EverSmile Dentistry in Sterling, Virginia
Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from having good dental health throughout your lifetime. Schedule your appointment with us today with EverSmile Dentistry. We serve as a family dentist for families throughout Northern Virginia.