For many, just hearing the word “DENTIST”, wells up a cauldron of dread that is hard for those without the fear to comprehend.
Fear of the dentist or dental treatment is very common. More people deal with this than most realize. Not everyone is absolutely terrified, but it is a very common fear that at some point those that are fearful are forced to deal with.
It ranges from not being thrilled with having to go to the dentist and have to deal with what is generally deemed unpleasant, all the way to wide-eyed fear, and being in a full on sweat.
Often those that are fearful, wind up avoiding the dentist for a long time. Before they know it, they find themselves in the exact situation they fear the most. Having to seek out a dentist they don’t know, and fear that he will cause more pain in an already painful situation.
There are any number of things that concern the fearful patient; pain, needles, drills, choking or gagging, embarrassment over the condition of your teeth, feeling numb… these are just to name a few. It could be any individual thing or a number of them combined.
So, does any, or all of this, leave you embarrassed to go to the dentist?
What do we need to consider to overcome dental anxiety?
Where it Starts
Most dental anxiety starts as a result of a painful or traumatic experience from a past dental visit. That experience likely occurred when your were a child which is why dental fear runs so deep.
When I first started my career in dental hygiene it was very eye-opening to me how many times I would hear the same story over and over about of how a dentist would work on someone when they were not numb, or feeling pain, have bad bedside manners, or all in all, just be insensitive.
I would think, how could this be, but nearly 20 years later, I still hear this same story at least a few times a week.
So knowing these were not isolated incidents, and realizing that the only way to overcome this kind fear and anxiety was to replace the bad experiences with good dental experiences prompted me to write about this.
Unfortunately, overcoming this does not happen overnight, as it takes many good experiences at the dentist to lessen the impact of that one horrible experience way back when.
Why Embarrassment Is Such A Big Part Of This Fear
Being embarrassed about one’s teeth is something else I hear all the time with new patients that are starting with our practice.
The condition of their teeth whether perceived or actual is equated with their being neglectful, thus the fear of being judged and thought less of as a person in general.
So if embarrassment is keeping you away, your fears will wind up turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You staying away means no dental care, and in time your teeth will have big/bigger issues, which will just add to the embarrassment.
For sure, the dental professionals that will be caring of you will have seen mouths as bad, most likely worse, and will just be happy that your in and getting things taken of.
If you don’t find this to be the case you need to go elsewhere. Part of the embarrassment comes from the thought of being judged and being belittled for what’s going on in your mouth.
Fortunately these days dental professional are taught to educate and inform so your can make good decisions about your dental health and not just be the all knowing doctor.
This one is the most obvious anxiety and for obvious reasons.
The long and short of it is, that when dealing with pain, dentistry will not be painful if your’re properly numbed.
I’m not saying your will have no discomfort (you will not need to be numbed for every procedure) or will never feel some minor pain when dealing with the dentist, their are just some things that no matter how well they are dealt with or how caring the dental professional is you won’t be thrilled with going through.
The important thing is that the dental professional always has your care and comfort in mind. They should be your advocate getting you through the visit, all the while easing your fears.
Some folks handle the dental visit just fine, but when it comes to needles they melt with fear.
There are a number of factors that play into easing the discomfort of getting “numbed up”
- Thin gauge needles lead to more comfortable injections.
- Injecting slowly minimizes the burning sensation that happens with injections. (this burning occurs because of a pH difference between the anesthetic and the tissue being injected into)
- Where it is given can make a difference. Some injection that are given in dense tissue can be more uncomfortable than those in more pliable tissue. (The dentist or hygienist should warn you, and with good technique be able to cut down on the discomfort)
- Pulling the tissue taught can make a difference
- Topical numbing gels help with the initial poke of the needle
- The clinician having empathy for what your going through
- Explaining beforehand why you can feel shakey, or why your heart can get beating faster with the injection. (There are small amounts of epinephrine in the injection that constrict the blood vessels at the site of injection which is intended to keep the anesthetic in the area longer, thus keeping you numb longer. Some are very sensitive to the epinephrine and may experience the shakiness or a faster heart beat. Knowing this can be normal and that it passes quickly is comforting to know beforehand if your very anxious.)
Asked your dentist or hygienist to explain how they approach things if your have any questions. Knowing what to expect will keep you from any surprises and helps ease your fear.
Things That Can Help
Get to know your dentist and hygienist!!
One of the biggest reasons I hear for leaving another practice to find a new one (other than moving) is that the patient expresses that they never see the same clinician twice.
When this is the case, its like starting over every time. Ask before your first visit if your have the option to see the same doctor, hygienist, or assistant each visit. Many don’t know this is an option.
You may want to meet them before your first visit to get a feel for them and the office. Each office has its own vibe, make sure that you find it to be a comfortable setting that isn’t “clinical” or cold.
Now most of the time meeting the staff is done on the first visit, but be aware that your can request meeting beforehand. If this is a problem for them to take a few minutes to meet you, then theirs a good chance your communication may not be what it needs to be from the start.
Remember that when communicating with the doctor or hygienist you should be a partner in your care. Make sure you know what is being done and why. Knowing “the why” behind what is being done will put you at ease.
The Last Word — TRUST!!!!!
When it comes right down to it, the solution to everything mentioned above hinges on TRUST!
The bottom line is you want to have a long-standing relationship with someone who cares not just about your teeth, but you!
I’ve been very fortunate to have taken care of many people over many years. The one’s I’ve known the longest I’ve seen for nearly 15 years, I consider them friends!
There are many practices out their, some fixtures in the community, some that newer. Fortunately most offices care very much about their patients. It’s unfortunate, as in any profession that your find some that give our profession a bad name.
Just realize what your need to be looking for, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let it be known what your need.
I assure you that the kind of office your looking for welcomes your questions, because it allows them to know what you need and how to make you feel welcome.
When you feel comfortable and trust the situation this is mutually beneficial, making it the kind of visit you will walk out of feeling positive about.
So, don’t ever be embarrassed to go to the dentist. The right office is out there. If your have been putting this off, pick up the phone today, and get the help your need.
Although we didn’t cover everything about the topic I hope this is of help.
I always welcome your questions and comments.
To your health!