26 Jul 8 Common Fears at the Dentist
Many people are often a little nervous about going to the dentist. Will they have a cavity or need a crown? Will it take a long time? What if it hurts? These worries don’t necessarily stop people from making and keeping a dental appointment. You might say these concerns are the typical things most people think about before any dental procedure.
Not everyone has such an easy time of their worries. People with a true fear of the dentist may find it difficult to make an appointment, let alone go to the dentist. If this is you, you may have a dental anxiety or phobia. It’s more common than you may reality with an estimated 30 to 40 million people affected by it.
Dental Anxiety and Phobia
Both dental anxiety and dental phobia are often used interchangeably but they are two distinct problems for patients.
Dental anxiety: Anxiety is an uneasy, nervous, or worried feeling. Patients may still go to the dentist but they’ll be worried before and during.
Dental phobia: A phobia is an intense, unreasonable fear. A patient with a dental phobia will be absolutely terrified about visiting the dentist and will likely not go at all.
Both anxieties and phobias are characterized by very similar reactions. Not every patient experiences the same feelings each time, but they are fearful enough that it affects their life.
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling tense
- Unable to sleep
- Feeling sick or nauseous
- Unwillingness to go to the dentist
What Do People Fear at the Dentist?
Fears and anxieties can come from previous bad experiences with a dentist or other doctors, an irrational phobia, past abuse that has nothing to do with the dentist, or other mental health problems. People may have experienced the situation they fear or worry they will experience it.
What are patients afraid of? Here are some of the most common dental fears a person may experience.
Pain: Pain is the most common fear among adults over the age of 24. Typically this is because they experienced fear at the dentist when they were younger before pain-free dentistry became more common.
Loss of Control: During a dental procedure, you are in a chair where you must stay still and you can’t always see what’s going on around you. This situation can cause anxiety for some patients who want to see what’s going on and feel as if they’re in control of the situation.
Embarrassment: Whether it’s due to an accident or lack of prior dental care, some patients don’t want anyone looking at their teeth. The embarrassment they feel at the condition of their teeth makes them anxious and nervous.
Too Close: At the dentist, it’s necessary for the dental hygienist and the dentist to be very close to the patient, only a few inches away from their mouth. Some people feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic when someone is in their personal space.
Needles: A fear of needles isn’t just a dental fear. Many people avoid other medical procedures to avoid being poked by a needle. Sometimes, a fear of needles is due in part to a fear of pain.
Gagging: Some patients have a strong gag reflex. When their dentist touches a certain area of their mouth, they may gag. Patients may become anxious because they fear vomiting at (or on) the dentist.
Choking: During a dental procedure, a lot of things are in a patient’s mouth, not least is a lot of water and saliva. Patients often worry they’ll choke on their spit, gauze, or even the instruments placed in their mouth.
The Unknown: Patients sometimes avoid a procedure or a doctor because they don’t know what will happen, and that makes them very afraid. They haven’t had the procedure before; they can’t see what’s going on. This lack of information can cause anxiety or fear.
Talk to Your Dentist About Your Fears
Being afraid of the dentist or the procedures keeps people from seeking necessary dental care all the time. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you have dental fears, anxieties, or even a phobia, talk to your dentist before scheduling a procedure. Meet with them in their office to discuss your mental health, past experiences, and what you fear. Some worries can be alleviated with information about the process or a quick look around the office. Your dentist may also offer dental sedation options to relieve your anxiety before and during the procedure.
Being afraid of going to the dentist is more common than you may realize. Some fears are based on past experiences while others are tied to our fear of the unknown. A good, well-qualified, and caring dental office will work with you to overcome or deal with your dental fears. They’ll listen and take care your concerns seriously. Don’t avoid going to the dentist because you’re afraid. Instead, find a dentist who will work with you.