How to Get Over Your Fear of the Dentist
A helpful guide to overcoming dental anxiety and calming your nerves before your next dentist visit
We all have our fears. Some rational, others not so much.
But whether you’re deathly afraid of heights or you’re terrified of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth - yes, this is a real thing, and it’s called arachibutyrophobia - your fears are very real. And unfortunately, you don’t get much of a choice as to what they are.
If you’re lucky, you can go about your daily life without your fears getting in the way. But if you find yourself unable to go within fifty feet of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then you might have a problem.
Thankfully, most of us aren’t forced to spend any time around peanut butter if we don’t want to. But for the tens of millions of Americans who have a fear of going to the dentist - also called dentophobia - avoidance can only work for so long.
Not many people get excited about going to the dentist, but for those with dentophobia, the fear can be so intense that it prevents them from seeking dental care for years.
As you can imagine, without proper dental care, tooth decay and gum disease can run rampant and cause a laundry list of problems.
People who struggle with dental fear often feel trapped because the longer they avoid the dentist, the worse their dental issues get, and the more treatment they need to fix them.
Some people can’t even drive by a dentist’s office without getting stressed out.
If any of this sounds familiar, we created this guide for you. We’ll be covering the many causes of dentophobia and helpful tips for overcoming dental anxiety for good. Our hope is to inspire you to seek dental care before your issues become too painful to ignore.
What Causes Fear of Going to the Dentist?
You might be thinking:
“What does it matter why I’m afraid of the dentist? I just want to know how to fix it!”
But knowing why you’re afraid of the dentist can help you understand how best to face your fear and ultimately get past it.
If you had a childhood experience that looked like something out of a horror movie, you can use that to your advantage.
When you work up the nerve to give your San Diego dentist a call, mentioning your previous experience can help them understand your situation and make your visit comfortable and accommodating for you.
Other than previous traumatic experiences, people can be afraid of the dentist for a number of reasons:
- Fear of embarrassment or criticism from your dentist - Many people with dentophobia feel embarrassed to show their mouths to a dental care professional after neglecting their oral health. They’re afraid their dentist will criticize them for not taking better care of their teeth, so they avoid going altogether.
- Fear of needles or drills - If you’re not afraid of needles or drills yourself, chances are you know someone who is. This phobia is incredibly common and can make dental care a nightmare.
- Fear of pain - Pain during dental treatments is never fun. Thankfully, nowadays, there are plenty of sedation options to keep procedures pain-free. But if you’re afraid of the dentist, anticipating future pain can be paralyzing.
- Fear of all the treatments you may need - You might be hesitant to go because you’re worried your dentist will take one look at your mouth and say, “Cancel the rest of my week.” Especially if you haven’t gotten a checkup in years, the thought of all the work you’ll have to get done when you finally go can be terrifying.
- Fear of how much all your treatments will cost - As time goes by and your dental issues worsen, the thought of your ever-growing medical bills gets scarier and scarier. This is another instance where the longer you wait, the bigger the problem becomes.
So, how do you break the cycle of fear, avoidance, and declining oral health?
As scary as it might seem, our goal with this article is to show you that overcoming dental anxiety is possible. With a little courage, communication, and some helpful tips, you can conquer your dental fear and smile with confidence again.
How to Overcome Dental Anxiety
If you have dentophobia, the first and most important step to work through it is to communicate with your dentist.
Lay it all out.
If you have a horror story, share it with them.
If you don’t like the lack of control you feel in the dentist's chair, agree on a hand signal with your dentist. The signal will tell them to stop if you become overwhelmed or start to feel pain.
And be honest about any pain you feel during treatment. Many people are nervous or embarrassed about stopping their dentist when they feel pain.
Dental care is a partnership. When you have open and honest communication with your dentist, you can work together to make your experience feel safe and secure.
Most often, it’s not that people who fear going to the dentist don’t want to improve their oral health. It usually has something to do with the fact that they don’t want a drill or needle in their mouth.
And who can blame them?
Let your San Diego dentist know of any fears you have so they can take measures to help you stay calm and relaxed during your procedure.
At Dental Express, we offer nitrous oxide sedation and other oral-conscious sedation options to make your experience more comfortable. These methods can help ease any fears you may have about pain, drills, or needles.
Turn Up The Volume
If the sound of a dental drill makes you want to run for the hills, feel free to bring in a pair of headphones with you.
You can listen to your favorite songs or some calming sounds to keep you relaxed throughout your treatment.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
When we’re scared or anxious, we tend to take fast, shallow breaths that deprive us of oxygen. During your treatment, focus on breathing in and out slowly to keep your stress under control.
If your schedule is tight on Friday, don’t try to fit your dentist appointment in that day. Do yourself a favor and schedule your checkup or treatment on a day when you’re not busy.
The goal is to keep your stress levels as low as possible, so you don’t want to be running around like a crazy person trying to deal with five other errands on the same day as your appointment.
Find a Dentist You Can Trust
If you're afraid of the dentist, searching for one you can trust can be just as frightening. When searching for the right San Diego dentist, look for one with excellent reviews that highlight friendly, professional staff.
It’s also essential to look for a dentist that offers the proper sedation methods to help with your dental fear. Some dentists may not offer options like nitrous oxide sedation.
And don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. Mention your concerns and see what they’re willing to do to accommodate you.
Regardless of what fears you have, your oral health should be their top priority.
Here for You Every Step of the Way
At Dental Express, we’re no stranger to patients with dental fear. With us, you don’t have to be embarrassed by your oral health.
Whether it’s been six months or ten years since your last checkup, we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
And no matter how many treatments you need, we’ll go at your pace and operate within your budget.
Every step of the way, we promise to listen, accommodate, and make your experience feel comfortable and safe.
If you have a fear of going to the dentist, feel free to reach out over the phone to voice your concerns or ask any questions. Whenever you’re ready to see us, we’ll be there to provide the best dental care San Diego has to offer and give you your smile back.