Are you afraid or uneasy about visiting the dentist? Do you find that you often come up with excuses to postpone or skip appointments?
If either of those questions hit home, it is possible that you suffer from dental anxiety – or even dental phobia. Both conditions are a lot more common than you might think, and many people suffer from them without even realizing it.
Before you can do something about it however, you first need to understand what dental anxiety and dental phobia are.
“What is Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia?”
Both dental anxiety and dental phobia are quite similar to one another, which is why people sometimes refer to them interchangeably. However technically speaking they are different.
Dental anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness (i.e. anxiety) when visiting a dentist, or even at the prospect of visiting one. The degree of anxiety can vary, and in some cases is very mild. In other cases it can be severe however, to the point where you could experience extreme uneasiness and fear.
On the flipside, dental phobia is an intense and irrational fear towards dental visits. It is much more extreme than dental anxiety, and if you have it you’ll find the prospect of visiting the dentist so terrifying that you do everything you can to get out of it.
Both of these conditions can stem from various causes. It could be a fear of pain, injections, anesthesia, loss of control, or even being uncomfortable with the intrusion into your personal space.
All in all whether it is dental anxiety or dental phobia the bottom line is you may feel afraid about visiting a dentist, but in slightly different ways and to very different degrees.
How to Cope with Dental Anxiety or Dental Phobia
Coping with dental anxiety or dental phobia can be a bit tricky. Just like most types of fear and anxiety, it requires you to address both the uneasiness that you feel as well as the underlying cause.
Some of the best ways to cope with it are to:
- Try deep breathing or meditation
Deep breathing or other types of meditation can help you to relax and relieve stress. While there are several techniques that you could try, the basic method is to inhale and exhale slowly while counting to 10. By focusing on your breathing, you should be able to avoid thinking about your dental treatment and not be affected by it.
- Find ways to distract yourself
If you’re able to distract yourself from the fact that you’re in the dentist’s chair you can avoid the anxiety that you feel. That can be accomplished in several ways, but such as watching videos on your tablet, listening to music, or even playing mental games of any kind.
- Discuss your condition with your dentist beforehand
Most dentists have a lot of experience dealing with patients who have dental anxiety or phobia, so you should definitely let them know about your condition and what you feel. If you do they can take steps to make you feel more at ease, such as talking and explaining each step of the treatment and what they’re going to do.
Additionally your dentist may help establish a hand sign that you can use to stop the treatment if you start to feel too anxious and need a break.
- Consider dental sedation
If you have dental phobia or severe dental anxiety, you may want to consider sedation dentistry. For example using nitrous oxide (i.e. laughing gas) can help to reduce the anxiety levels of people with mild or moderate dental anxiety. Other types of sedation can be used for more severe cases.
Aside from these steps, if you’re able to isolate the cause of your fear – you may be able to deal with it better. That can be done through various means, and one of the most popular right now is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
At the end of the day you should try not to feel embarrassed about the fact that you have dental anxiety or dental phobia. It is estimated that anywhere from 10% to 20% of people have it in some form or other, so it is a lot more normal than you might think.
The best thing that you can do is focus on coping with your condition and overcoming it. The goal should be to ensure that your anxiety does not prevent you from visiting the dentist, otherwise it will end up affecting your oral health.
Hopefully by this juncture you understand the condition enough to start taking steps to cope with it. If you find that you need any further help you should definitely talk to your dentist about it and make further arrangements with them.