If you’re terrified of going to your dentist, then now that you’re not alone. Up to 15% of people in the U.S. say they don’t go to dental appointments due to fear and anxiety.
However, if you’re prepared to endure tooth pain, tooth loss or abscesses instead of going to your dentist or do everything you can possibly do just to see your dentist, the chances are that you might have dental phobia.
What Exactly Is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia is different from dental anxiety. It’s a more severe mental condition that could leave individuals immensely terrified or panic-stricken. If you suffer from dental phobia, while you’re fully aware that your fears are irrational, you can’t seem to do anything about it.
Common symptoms of dental phobia are:
- Difficulty sleeping at night before your dental appointment.
- Arriving at your dentist’s office but then having extreme difficulty going in.
- Being extremely nervous and panicky while waiting for your turn at the dentist’s office.
- Feeling immense discomfort physically and crying at the mere thought of your dental appointment.
- Intense anxiety when thinking and when your dentist actually puts objects inside your mouth and feeling like you’re going to have panic attack.
What Are the Causes of Dental Phobia?
The most common causes of dental phobia include the following:
- Fear of feeling pain that typically stems from a past experience in the dentist’s office that was painful or unpleasant.
- Fearing of the potential side effects of anesthesia such as faintness, dizziness, nausea and numbness.
- Being scared of injections. Many people are scared of needles, particularly when used inside the mouth. While others are scared that the anesthesia won’t work and they’ll feel pain during the dental procedure.
- Terrified of losing control and feeling helpless. Some people intensely dislike the feeling having their mouths wide open during the examination, while some people simply don’t like the feeling of helplessness during a dental exam or procedure.
- Losing personal space and feeling embarrassed. Plenty of people are just not comfortable with the dentist being very close to their faces physically, while others might feel intensely self-conscious of how their teeth look like or potential foul odors from their mouth.
How Do You Manage Dental Anxiety?
Fortunately, various ways can effectively help you manage your symptoms. Sedation dentistry specialists in Colorado and all over the world agree that you need to discuss your fears and triggers with your dentist so that he or she will know how to proceed with your treatment.
Some coping tactics that could help you include meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, distraction like using your smartphone, watching videos or listening to music while getting treated and undergoing hypnosis and progressive muscle relaxation.
However, if you have severe dental phobia, you might need to undergo dental treatment while under relative analgesia commonly known as laughing gas, conscious sedation, anxiety-relieving drugs or general anesthesia. You might also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to better understand your irrational thoughts and feelings and try to correct them. With the right treatment strategy, you too can get over your dental phobia.