Odontophobia, or the fear of dentistry and of receiving dental care, is not uncommon. Dental anxiety can result in everything from bad dreams prior to treatment, to complete avoidance of dental care unless the patient is in crisis. As you might imagine, if you only visit the dentist when you have a big problem, you’re probably going to associate the place with pain and discomfort. Overcoming your fear and stopping the cycle is difficult to do, but is possible. If you don’t want to treat every dentist appointment like the end of the world, use these tips to gradually overcome your aversion.
There are dentists and places like the Claremont Dental Institute that try to cater to those afraid of dental care. Let the staff know you feel anxious or apprehensive and they will help to do what they can to make the experience easier. From the person at the front desk to the hygienist, it is critically important that you, the patient, feel well informed of each step in the process of receiving care. As you can, try to make personal connections with the staff at your dentist’s office. Knowing your dentist and their staff as people will make your experience less frightening.
Use connections mentally as well. If you connect bad experiences with a place, you can taint the environment. As you wait in the lobby or go back to the chair try to connect with things that make you feel at ease like your favorite book or TV show. You might also contact your dentist for an initial meeting that doesn’t involve a cleaning or procedure.
In the first few appointments, try to connect with the dentist while still sitting up. It’s not uncommon for dentists to do follow up exams after the cleaning while a patient is still reclined. Ask to be sat up after the cleaning so you can regain your orientation and communicate with your dentist face to face. There can be a great vulnerability in laying back, and you need to build ease and assurance in your relationship with your dentist. Check out your dentist’s online presence, and if possible, find a communication connection. Perhaps your dentist is on the board of a charity you’re interested in? Start up a conversation about that with your dentist before you lay back in the chair. This connection should reduce anxiety.
If a trip to the dentist triggers bad dreams, consider avoiding nitrous oxide if at all possible, at least during the first few visits. Nitrous oxide can lead to a feeling of paralysis, tingling, or falling, and you may fall asleep. For those who truly feel panicky in the dentist chair, the sense of not being able to move while a stranger moves very close to you and touches your face can be fodder for terrible nightmares. Many people find an inner calm while listening to music on headphones or by singing while in the dentist chair. When you set up the appointment, ask the receptionist if you can use some of these methods during the first procedure.
A bad experience at the dentist during childhood can lead to a lifetime of dental anxiety. If you find a dental care office that takes the time to tell you what’s happening, lets you calm yourself at your own pace, and holds your hand when you really need it, you have found the right dental care professionals.