Having anxiety at the dentist is — honestly — a pretty rational feeling.
Most dental offices are sterile, uncomfortably formal, and just overall unwelcoming.
For some, however, that feeling is a bit more intense than the average patient. You might not know it, but Dentophobia is a diagnosable condition. Usually, it means that you experience fear over almost all of the following circumstances:
- Fear of the dentist: This is generally rooted in bad experiences. Or this fear may derive from outdated misconceptions that doctors and dentists are detached and unsympathetic.
- Fear of gagging: If you already have issues with breathing or swallowing, the fear of gagging while having your teeth cleaned is a visceral response. Numbness is another worry associated with going to the dentist. This is especially true for patients with a history of strokes or seizures.
- Fear of pain: Whether it’s needles, blood, or the idea of a drill in your mouth, you’ll need to face all of these things when you go to the dentist.
Unfortunately, you can’t sweep these feelings of fear and anxiety away with a magic wand.
And instead of simply telling you that’s it’s necessary to overcome these fears for your overall health, we’re going to show you how to deal with dentist anxiety in small but successful steps.
How To Prevent Anxiety at the Dentist
Don’t feel silly if going to the dentist scares you: 50-80% of adults in the U.S. feel the same way.
But let’s take a second to talk about what will happen if you never visit your dentist’s office.
The whole point of going to the dentist is to prevent oral pain and suffering. You’re supposed to go twice a year for a thorough cleaning because there’s only so much you can do at home by yourself.
If you have a good oral hygiene routine, your dentist may tell you that once a year is enough for a cleaning (well— maybe).
Going regularly gives your dentist a chance to prevent future cavities, gum disease, or a root canal. So by avoiding this bi-annual chore, you actually might be setting yourself up for more anxiety down the road.
Avoiding the Dentist
Let’s say you haven’t been to the dentist in a few years. Lately, you’ve been noticing a dull ache in one of your teeth. It’s bearable… until it isn’t.
Eventually, your toothache is so painful that you finally book an appointment.
This is when you’ll find out that you need something like a root canal, which is a much more invasive and uncomfortable experience. One that we could have prevented if you just went to the dentist.
Some other repercussions you might face by avoiding the dentist are:
- Tooth discoloration
- Bad breath
- Tooth loss
- Gum Disease
- Heart disease (yep, there’s a tie between teeth plaque and your arteries)
- Abscessed tooth
Still not convinced? Here are 5 tips on how to deal with dentist anxiety.
Tip #1: Find the Right Dentist
Preventing anxiety at the dentist starts with finding one that you mesh well with.
Learning how to find a good dentist starts with your expectations. For example, you may want to find a dentist that:
- Allows you to bring a supportive friend or family member to help with your fear
- Is flexible and understanding of your concerns
- Let’s you listen to music during your appointment
- Is easy to contact
When researching dentists, it’s also essential to know how to read their reviews. Reviews that specifically address dental anxiety are a good sign that the dentist is for you.
For example, at Lasry Dental Clinic here in Beverly Hills, we have patients who specifically point out that Dr. Lasry helps ease their nerves!
Tip #2: Know What You’re Getting Into
Sometimes we become anxious when we fear the unknown. In fact, one study specifically confirms,
“…individuals with current, fear-based internalizing disorders display exaggerated anticipatory anxiety in response to uncertain or ambiguous threat.”
Your dental anxiety stems from not knowing what to expect (because you haven’t been in so long), or you’re afraid of what problems your dentist may find.
The best way to prevent this? Know what you’re getting into.
A good dentist will not only have a list of their services, but they’ll break down exactly what the procedure is like so you’re prepared.
For example, if you look at our Services page, you’ll see what we offer and what the procedure is like. We even have individual guides for our most popular services such as:
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LOS ANGELES VENEERS
- TEETH WHITENING IN LOS ANGELES
- INVISALIGN IN LOS ANGELES: DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?
- COMPOSITE BONDING COST, PROCEDURE, AND RESULTS
If you’re still nervous when you get to the dentist, ask your hygienist or dentist to walk you through the procedure. They can help alleviate discomfort by letting you know how much time it will take, what tools they’ll use, and if nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is available!
Tip #3: Practice Breathing Exercises
Even the most well-prepared people can still face anxiety at the dentist once it’s time to go in. For in-office concerns, you’ll need to be equipped with self-soothing remedies to ease your mind.
Our recommendation? Breathing exercises.
It may seem silly to some, but it’s been proven that intentional breathing can help soothe the mind and body. Here are 3 tangible breathing tips you can practice the day of your appointment:
One of our personal favorites is the 5,4,3,2,1 Countdown. This exercise helps you focus on the present moment, so you aren’t thinking about what’s causing your anxiety.
Tip #4: Reward Yourself
One tactic that dentists like to use to help patients find natural comfort in going to the dentist is to start while they’re young.
Of course, kids are especially prone to anxiety at the dentist because it’s a new (and scary) experience for them. This is why many dentists will implement a reward system such as the Toy Chest Box. Each kid goes home with a toy and a brand new toothbrush as a treat for going to the dentist.
Over time, this reward system changes the child’s view of going to the dentist. They know they’ll get to pick out a toy at the end of it. Now, going to the dentist is almost a fun experience!
If you didn’t ease into going to the dentist as a child, you have more reason to despise this bi-annual appointment. But now is as good as time as any to reward yourself for stepping outside your comfort zone!
Here are some (adult) ideas on how you can reward yourself for going to the dentist:
- Pair your yearly dentist appointments with a massage or full spa day.
- Buy yourself a new outfit to go with your gleaming smile.
- Dentist Day = Day Off! Plan a fun-filled day with your favorite activities, lunch spots, and nightly adventures.
See? It’s simple psychology. The only thing we don’t recommend is getting dessert or going out to eat right after your dentist appointment. Save that for later in the day.
Tip #5: Make It a Habit
However, if you really want to know how to deal with dentist anxiety, the best way to prevent it (or get rid of it altogether) is to make it a habit.
By getting into the habit of going twice a year, the experience will become more tolerable. Maybe even enjoyable!
Ultimately, this routine will ensure you’re health is in peak condition. It will even save you money because you likely won’t need those expensive procedures from oral neglect.