The Root Cause: Facing Common Dental Fears

It’s been projected that between 5% and 8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear. A higher percentage of Americans, perhaps 20%, experience extreme dental anxiety that will prohibit them from visiting the dentist regularly. In fact, many patients will only go to the dentist when absolutely necessary.

Few people look forward to a visit to the dentist. But serious anxiety prevents millions of Americans from seeking proper preventative care. The consequences of this problem may go far beyond the obvious. Avoiding regular dental care could lead to gum disease, a serious infection that can affect other parts of the body. Studies now link gum disease to illnesses including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Fortunately, many dentists are specially trained in handling fearful patients and offer a variety of methods and treatments to reduce pain and alleviate fear in the dentist’s chair. When necessary, sedation dentistry is the perfect treatment plan for those who struggle feeling comfortable in the dental chair. In this article, we will explain the most common dental fears and offer simple advice on what you can do to ease your mind.

THE DENTIST
Many patients fear their dental provider because of past childhood experiences that include an uncaring, harsh dentist and lots of pain. Memories from the past greatly affect the future. If a patient had an awful experience in his/her youth, those memories will likely prohibit that person from coming back for treatment as an adult.

What can you do? Start by finding a dentist who you trust and discuss your feelings. Be open and honest with your dental provider. Identifying the cause of your fears is the first step in the right direction. Any well-trained dentist will assure you and list the best treatment plan for you considering all factors.

EMBARRASSMENT
If it has been years since the last time you had a dental exam or if you worry that you may have a lot of dental problems, the feeling of embarrassment can prevent you from making a dental appointment. Often, the hardest step is making the call to set up the appointment. Once you have found a caring dentist, he or she will reassure you and help get you back on track to optimum dental health. Take it one step at a time!

LACK OF CONTROL
Many times, dental fears are caused by the feeling of not being in control. Being dependent upon another person you hardly know can make many feel uneasy. The best way to deal with this feeling is to become educated. Find a dentist who is willing to discuss every option and thoroughly review the procedures involved in your treatment plan. Once you understand the details, you’ll feel more comfortable and in control of your own dental care.

CLOSENESS TO THE MOUTH
When someone hovers a few inches away from your face and inserts their hands in your mouth, it can be unsettling so say the least. It’s never easy to have someone you barely know up close and personal. The best way to combat this discomfort is to find a dentist or dental hygienist whom you trust. Remember, dental professionals are educated and trained to help you receive the best dental care possible.

PAIN & PRICKS
The fear of needles and pricks are among the most common because they are both associated with the fear of pain. By finding a dentist who offers sedation dentistry, you can eliminate any discomfort associated with dental procedures. Even if you are not sedated, dentists who are accustomed to offering sedation dentistry offer many techniques to reduce pain on fully lucid patients.

THE DRILL & NOISE
The sound of a powerful, high-speed drill does not elicit thoughts of peace and comfort. Yet a dental drill is often required for many treatment procedures. Your best bet is to find a dentist who offers simple distractions such as music, television, ear plugs or even sedation dentistry.

GAGGING & CHOKING
People with a sensitive gag reflex may dread going to the dentist due to uncontrollable gagging or choking. However, there are many simple techniques that can help with this issue. The two best options for patients with a prominent gag reflex are topical anesthetic spray or nitrous oxide. Both options are highly effective.

REACTIONS OR INEFFECTIVENESS TO LOCAL ANESTHESIA
Adverse reactions to or ineffectiveness of local anesthesia are easily handled with sedation dentistry. With certain types of sedation, local anesthetic can be greatly reduced and even eliminated. It is important to let your dentist know about any reactions you have had in the past with any other previous medications, including local anesthetic.

EXTENSIVE TREATMENT
When extensive dental work is needed, the thought of it can be overwhelming and a bit scary. It’s not uncommon for people to delay treatment because of this fear. It is important to have a thorough understanding of what type of dental work you need and why. From there, you and your dentist can decide which procedure is most important to start with. Often times, treatment can be broken into two categories: what is most necessary requiring immediate action and what treatment can be prolonged.

COST
Unfortunately, dental treatment can be expensive even with dental insurance. The burden of paying for dental bills can be heavy to carry. Open communication with your dentist is very important. He, or a member of the staff, can help find financing or less expensive options for treatment.

SPECIAL NEEDS
Patients with special needs include individuals who are physically and/or mentally disabled, medically compromised, and/or individuals who require more attention or care than others. Finding a dentist who is comfortable treating patients with special needs can be challenging. However, there are many well-trained, qualified dentists who would welcome the opportunity to discuss treatment options with special needs patients and their families.

Millions of people fail to get necessary dental care because they’re afraid to go to the dentist. We don’t want you to be one of the many Americans paralyzed by fear in seeking dental treatment. Now that you have a better understanding of the most common fears and how to handle each situation, we hope that you feel more comfortable beginning your search for the right dentist.