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Overcoming Dental Anxiety (and How the Right Dentist Can Help)

If you get nervous before dentist appointments, you’re not alone! Many dental patients, from children to senior citizens, experience dentist-related anxiety. We all know that regular visits are essential to dental health, but too often this fear causes people to avoid seeking the care they need. It’s a common pattern, but it can absolutely be overcome.

If you dread sitting in the chair ahead of a planned appointment, or if you skip the dentist altogether due to anxiety, there is no need to compromise your oral health any longer. Finding the right dentist can help you move past the fear, get answers to misconceptions, and potentially even sit back and relax. (Hint: doing so will help you avoid escalating oral problems that only serve to exacerbate dentist dread.)

Causes for Anxiety

A dental phobia can arise for many reasons. Sometimes a patient is simply a worrier by nature; other times, they may have experienced a negative encounter with a specific dentist in the past and have come to fear all dentists and appointments are created equal. Perhaps the sound of drills and other dental machinery puts them on edge. Those of us who have had some kind of negative experience with a dentist — whether it was painful, frightening, or both — are 22 times more likely to be afraid of going back to the dentist.

Mitigating Anxiety – Inside and Outside the Dentist’s Office

Overcoming your fear starts with finding the right dental practice. When searching for a dentist that specializes in patient comfort, consider the following:

  • Does the dentist give you options for treatment?
  • Will the dentist fully explain the issue at hand and provide a clear understanding of the work he or she is going to perform?
  • Is the dentist able to effectively administer numbing agents to prevent pain during or after a procedure?
  • Is the dentist’s office available to answer pre- and post-visit questions in order to understand your specific hesitations?
  • What other comforts can the dentist offer during your visit? Examples can include complimentary tea in the waiting room, ibuprofen, a comfortable chair with neck pillow, private treatment rooms, distractions such as reading materials or personal headphones, and optional sedation.

Call your local dentist or browse their website to determine whether they meet these criteria. Word of mouth, referrals, and review websites can also provide a glimpse into similar patients’ experiences.

Find the Right Dentist to Fight Anxiety

Each patient arrives with a unique history and set of needs. Securing an appointment with a gentle and experienced dentist is the best way to ensure yours are met. Once you establish a rapport with your dentist and have a few positive experiences under your belt, you’ll be on your way to anxiety-free care. Don’t give up on your oral health — find the right dentist for you!