Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 18-04-2019
Dental anxiety is a very real fear that can range from mild nervousness about visiting our office to a paralyzing fear even at the thought of dentistry or teeth. Many things can trigger dental fear, from a bad experience in the past to associations with the sounds and smell of the dental office. Some form of dental “apprehension” is normal, as most of us worry about our teeth, their appearance, and having to pay for dental care. However, when it goes from apprehension to fear, you are suffering from dental anxiety. Dental anxiety is something you can and should overcome as regular dental care is not only important for your teeth and gums, but for your overall health as well. Here are some ways we can help you overcome your dental anxiety.
Why do I have dental anxiety?
If you have dental anxiety, you are not alone. An estimated 15 percent of patients suffer from some form of dental-related fears. Although most of us can book a dental appointment without any association to fear, for those of you who are suffering from fear, your worries can be caused by a number of things including:
1. Fear of pain
Everyone is afraid of pain, but when you are afraid to schedule a dental appointment out of fear it will hurt you can rest assured that we can help. Modern dentistry provides many ways to ensure you are completely comfortable during your appointments, whether it is a simple cleaning or some form of restorative treatment. We have access to many forms of anesthetic and sedation such as nitrous oxide to keep you relaxed during your appointment.
2. Fear of needles
This is common even for those who do not have a general fear of dentists. However, we can overcome this problem by using nitrous oxide to keep you calm so you won’t even notice the needle is being used before we begin your treatment.
3. Past experience
It is very understandable to be afraid to come to our office if you have had a bad experience with other dental clinics in the past. These experiences can vary from bad service at the front desk to discomfort during a past dental appointment. You might even have had a dentist you just didn’t like due to their manner. Regardless of what bad experience you had, our office is different. Your number one goal should be finding a dentist that makes you feel comfortable and treats you with respect.
4. Trust issues
As with above, past issues with a dental office and its business operations can cause trust issues. You might feel you have been mistreated or taken advantage of by a dentist who might have over-billed you. You might have had issues with appointments where you are given an appointment on the phone and when you take the time away from your busy schedule to attend your appointment you are told there is no record of that appointment at the front desk. You might have even had run-ins with rude staff. This can create trust issues that will keep you from wanting to return to the dental office. Finding the right fit for your dental needs is imperative and it all starts with that first phone call to set up your appointment. Make sure they answer all of your questions and are always on the same page when it comes to your treatment, billing and appointments to avoid misunderstandings that can be upsetting, waste time and leave a bad feeling.
Some people’s anxiety is caused because they feel helpless during their treatment. You might feel nervous because you can’t communicate and therefore not be able to tell us if you feel pain or discomfort. Some people with other fears such as claustrophobia might feel constrained when sitting in the dental chair. All of these anxieties can be alleviated when we know how you are feeling. Let your dentist know at your first appointment about these fears and they will ensure we have an easy way of communicating so you can always let them know when you are feeling nervous or need to take a break.
In some cases, patients who have avoided the dentist for years might know they have issues with their teeth and feel embarrassed about the appearance of their teeth or poor oral health. You should never feel embarrassed when dealing with your dental team as they understand all the potential issues that can arise and are there to provide the care you need to get your dental health back on track.
7. Financial stress
This can happen if you do not have dental benefits, are carrying debt, or both you might be worried about the cost of your treatment. There are many different options to make paying for your dental care easy to manage financially. Everyone is entitled to proper dental care and a good dentist will work with you to look into payment options or government-funded programs that you might be eligible to receive.
How can dentists help?
It is part of our job to provide the dental care and services required for optimum dental health. That means that we will address every concern you have from pain to appearance and issues with our office to financial challenges. Your dentist should take every precaution to ensure you are treated in a manner that works for you, and should optimize your experience by providing comfort, professionalism, and special arrangements to accommodate any personal needs.
What if I am still afraid?
If you are still afraid after having a very personal conversation with us about all of your concerns, you can consider speaking to a mental health professional who can assess your fears. They can provide a number of techniques to help you manage and even overcome your anxiety, so you are not deprived of the dental care you require for optimum health.