Fear of the dentist is so common that it has its own name—odontophobia—and is estimated to affect about 15% of Americans, or about 30 million people. Dental phobias can be serious, because they can prevent a patient from going to the dentist altogether. This causes a vicious cycle in which the individual, who has avoided dental care due to fear, develops dental problems to the point of requiring a drastic emergency procedure. After the procedure, the individual is even more afraid of the dentist—and even less likely to return for routine care.
If you suffer from fear of the dentist, it’s essential to break the cycle. Here are 7 tips that can help overcome your dental phobia.
Set Up an Informational Appointment
If the thought of a scary, masked figure looming over you is contributing to your fear, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment simply to meet your dentist face-to-face. Getting to know your dentist as a real human being, just like everyone else you know, might help you feel more at ease when you go in for a procedure. Let your dentist office know that you have a dental phobia, and would just like to schedule an informational interview to learn about possible accommodations your dentist can make.
Partially Recline Your Chair
Many people dislike the helplessness and loss of control they feel when reclined in a dentist’s chair. Ask your dentist if it’s possible to only partially recline your chair. Sitting up halfway may help ease your fears and make you feel more in control of the situation. Not every dental procedure can take place while the patient is sitting up, but in many cases, it’s possible.
Establish a Hand Signal
Set up a signal with your dentist, such as raising your hand, which will tell him or her to stop immediately. Knowing that you will be able to communicate any discomfort will help ease your anxiety. Don’t worry that you are being demanding or “hard to help.” Remember that most dentists have worked with odontophobic people before, and are prepared to take the appropriate steps to accommodate your needs.
Remember that Modern Dentistry is Different
The world of dentistry is in a constant state of rapid change. This means that many procedures which might have scared you as a child are most likely completely different today! For instance, patients who would like to straighten their teeth now have the option of Invisalign; dentists use digital X-rays, which expose patients to 80% less radiation, instead of film; and CEREC machines can “print” a crown or veneer in the same day you visit the dentist’s office. In other words, you might be afraid of a procedure that isn’t even performed anymore, or is performed in a completely different way.
Schedule your Appointment Today
When you’re ready to take the next big step towards a beautiful smile, call Lowcountry Dental Arts Our friendly James Island dentists will ease your phobia and make you feel confident and secure.