It’s actually one of the most common phobias in today’s world; dental phobia refers to the feeling of intense fear or anxiety that is experienced in association to dentists or dental visits. As with any phobia, people experience it in varying levels of intensity, from mild worry to extreme anxiety. One factor about dental phobia that is important to emphasize, however, is that this type of phobia is commonly more disruptive of people’s lives and health than some other phobias. This is because dental phobia commonly prevents people from visiting the dentist regularly, and it commonly leads to the development of a distrust of dentists and their advice. This easily leads to deteriorating oral health, perpetual gum disease and, in some cases, tooth loss.
If you have dental phobia, there is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed because of it. You’re not weird, and you’re not a freak. Your phobia is valid, and it’s not a result of your fault or any weakness. It can be an obstacle to your oral health, but that doesn’t mean that dental ailments are inevitable; this phobia, like other phobias, can be overcome.
Find the Cause
A good first step to take when facing your phobia is to look for the root causes of it. There are a variety of reasons that people develop dental phobia; it’s different for everyone. Below is a general list of common categories that these causes typically fall under:
- A poor experience at a dentist’s office in the past or past experiences of medical malpractice.
- Stories or hypothetical situations that have been told to you by friends or family regarding unpleasant visits to the dentist or “what could go wrong.”
- Feelings of lost control when in the dentist’s chair.
- Self consciousness about the state of your oral health.
- The sights and sounds that are unique to a dentist’s office (the dental gowns, masks, equipment noises).
Figuring out what exactly makes you so scared or anxious of the dentist is the first step to gaining understanding of your phobia. It also allows you to address the root cause rather than a vague feeling.
Helpful Tips for Your Journey
Overcoming this obstacle is a journey; it’s something that you have to actively work on. It’s not going to happen overnight—no one is expecting it to, and neither should you. It’s also not something that’s going to go away on its own. Depending on the person and the level of severity of the phobia, different techniques work in different cases. Some people enlist the help of a therapist along the way of their journey, and others don’t; neither is superior to the other. Your journey is entirely your own; it’s not a competition or a comparison. Wherever your journey takes you, here are some common helpful tips that you can keep with you on your journey:
- You’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family or even others with dental phobia about your phobia. Breaking the silence can many times break the shame. Surround yourself with support.
- Find a dentist that is willing to work with you and be accommodating of your comfort zone. There are plenty of sympathetic dentists out there; don’t stick with one that doesn’t have the time to care.
- Be honest with your dentist. Your dentist, ultimately, wants to help you. It might be hard to believe at first, but try trusting him or her and see how it goes.
- Familiarize yourself with dental procedures so you know exactly what’s going on. Sometimes ignorance creates fear in itself; knowledge can bring light to this area.
- There are many anesthetics available to make you more comfortable and eliminate any pain or discomfort throughout the procedures.
Best of luck!