Dental Anxiety & Fear of Dentists Q&A
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Dental anxiety refers to the feelings of nervousness, anxiousness and uneasiness that a person experiences when they are visiting the dentist. It is different from fear of the dentist (dentophobia), and can exist on its own or in tandem with dentophobia. While many people associate dental anxiety with going to the dentist, it can also be experienced outside of the dental office. However, it is often experienced when going to the dentist for a check-up, when a person is thinking about going to the dentist, or when a person is experiencing dental problems that warrant a visit to the dentist.
Dental anxiety can affect people of all ages; there are several coping mechanisms to help ease fears and anxieties while at the dentist, including:
– Communicate concerns to the dentist
– Do not be afraid to ask questions
– Breathing exercises
– Meditation and muscle relaxation
– Bring a friend
– Anxiety-relieving medication
– Conscious sedation
– General anesthesia
Fears and phobias are complex and are not always easy to understand, but in many cases, there are discernible underlying causes that contribute to the development of an irrational fear. Possible causes of dentophobia include:
Family History : The risk of having a phobia increases if the individual has a parent or family member with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder.
Feeling Embarrassed : Some people may feel strange about a dentist or hygienist being so close to their face; other common concerns include the state of one’s teeth and bad breath.
Feeling Helpless : The experience of lying in a chair, immobile and mouth agape with tools prodding around can cause a person to feel like they are not in control, which is a significant determining factor when it comes to phobias.
Mimicry : Hearing someone talk about their fear of dentists can spark the same phobia in others, even if they have never had a negative experience at the dentist before.
Past Negative Experiences : Perhaps the most common reason for a fear of the dentist is a rational one, stemming from a negative traumatic experience related to going to the dentist that happened in the past. Traumatic experiences may include fear of the dentist from a young age, having dental procedures performed without consent or without cause, as well as having a procedure that caused pain or complications.
Dentists have been dealing with dental phobia since the dawn of dentistry, and over the years have developed specific techniques that can mitigate fear and anxiety and put patients at ease. Because anxiety generally causes hyperventilation and panic, deep breathing is still one of the best ways to manage any kind of anxiety, including dental anxiety. If a dentist notices that their patient seems uncomfortable during their appointment, they can take a moment’s pause and advise them to try some basic deep breathing exercises before continuing.
Distractions in the operating room can keep patients’ minds off of any discomfort or fear they are experiencing; one of the most popular ways to achieve this is by having a television in the room or allowing a friend or family member to be in the room during the checkup, especially for children who experience dental anxiety.
The most popular way to calm patients and treat more severe dental anxiety that is actively interfering with an appointment is medication, such as laughing gas.
Dental anxiety is an incredibly prevalent condition that affects over a third (36 percent) of people in the US; approximately 12 percent have an extreme fear. About three percent of adults in industrialized countries (such as the US) may have dentophobia and avoid going to the dentist at all. Fear of dentists is more common in females (almost five percent) than in males (nearly three percent).
Call us today to book an appointment with our qualified dentist, or visit one of our two locations: we have one in Miami Beach, FL and one in North Miami, FL. We look forward to serving you! We serve patients from Miami Beach FL, Greater Miami FL, Aventura FL, Miami Shores FL, Dodge Island FL, Wynwood FL, Little Haiti FL, Midtown FL, North Miami FL, and Pinewood FL.