Dentophobia: What It Is & How to Overcome It
You wake up in the middle of the night, soaked in cold sweat, your heart racing. Were you dreaming about your latest cell phone bill, or that upcoming dentist appointment? All joking aside, some people get very anxious when it comes time to go to the dentist. Even people who have never had a bad experience with a dentist can feel anxious about visiting their family dentist. The condition is called dentophobia and is very real. If you suffer from dentophobia, here is some helpful information for understanding and overcoming your fear of dentists.
What is Dentophobia?
Dentophobia is a fear of dentists, fear of going to the dentist, or fear of getting dental work done. Like with many other phobias, dentophobia is often irrational and in many cases can be quite extreme.
Dentophobia isn’t always caused by a bad experience with a dentist. Some people have an innate fear of medical and healthcare professionals that wear “white coats”, including doctors and dentists. While researchers have extensively studies phobias to try and understand where they come from, their findings are that people associate these types of professionals with painful or unpleasant experiences. In many cases, people who suffer from dentophobia and other phobias haven’t had a bad experience directly, but that doesn’t make the fear any less real to them.
Some people suffer a mild form of dentophobia, suffering only a mild level of anxiety when they need to visit their family dentist. But for others the phobia can trigger severe bouts of fear, anxiety and panic.
As a consequence of their fear of dentists, dentophobes will refrain from visiting the dentist, which can have adverse affects on their dental hygiene and oral health.
Dealing With & Overcoming Dentophobia
If you suffer from dentophobia, here are some common coping mechanisms that might help you overcome your fear of dentists, or at least make your trip to the dentist more bearable:
- Think Positive! – Positive reinforcement can be a great motivator and can help soothe some concerns about going to the dentist. Whenever you start thinking about or feeling anxious about going to the dentist, take some time to think about some positive reflections such as the importance of going to the dentist, that dentists are not to be feared or that you’re going to have a great visit and a clean bill of oral health!
- Avoid Stimulants – As you near your dentist appointment, try to avoid stimulants like coffee or energy drinks. Instead, choose relaxing alternatives like chamomile or other teas. Stimulants can intensify feelings that you have, especially negative ones, making your fear of dentists more severe than it needs to be.
- Tell Your Dentist How You’re Feeling – When you first check-in at your family dentist office, tell the receptionist about your anxiety and ask them to forward that information to the dentist. If your dentist doesn’t do so without you asking, ask them to carefully explain the work they’re going to do so you know exactly what is going to happen.
- Write Your Future Self a Letter – Most people who suffer from dentophobia feel an immediate sense of relief after their visit to the dentist, once the appointment is over. Take a few minutes to write your future self a letter explaining how there really was nothing to fear. When it’s time for your next appointment, open the letter from your past self and read your own words of soothing calmness!
Consider Conscious Sedation Dentistry
For extreme cases of dentophobia, conscious sedation dentistry might be a solution. In conscious sedation dentistry, your dentist will use nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – to relieve your fear and worry.
Nitrous oxide is a mild anaesthetic. It will give you a feeling of euphoria and take the fear and anxiety out of visiting the dentist. Your dentist will monitor the amount of nitrous oxide you receive to keep you in the happy zone of not worrying about the work they’re doing.
If you feel a heightened level of fear and anxiety when you visit your dentist, you might be suffering from dentophobia. You could try thinking positive, avoiding stimulants, telling your dentist how you feel and writing your future self a letter to help deal with this often irrational but no less real feeling. If that doesn’t work, ask your dentist about conscious sedation dentistry. Orion Dental offers a full range of dental services for the entire family, including conscious sedation dentistry and many others. Contact our Milton dental office at (905) 636 – 9770 or our Scarborough dental office at (416) 291 – 0306 today to book an appointment and let us help you manage your fear of dentists!