Overcoming Dental Fears & Phobias
Matt Hannan, DDS
Updated: January 14, 2024
Many people experience anxiety at the thought of visiting the dentist.
From the sound of the drill to the anticipation of pain, dental fears and phobias are common, yet they can prevent individuals from seeking necessary care.
This article delves into the roots of dental anxieties, providing insight and practical strategies for overcoming them.
1. Previous Traumatic Experiences
Unfortunately, many individuals have had traumatic experiences at the dentist’s office that have negatively impacted their perspective on dental care. Whether it was a lack of provider empathy, unexpected pain during procedures, or just general discomfort, these experiences can create an aversion to dental care.
A crucial step towards overcoming these obstacles is acknowledging your feelings. Talk to your dentist about your past experiences. An understanding dentist can tailor your treatment, provide more breaks during procedures, and help you feel more comfortable.
Deep belly breaths can also help manage tension, especially when breathing through your mouth becomes challenging during a procedure. Additionally, don’t hesitate to discuss anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) options with your clinician, such as oral conscious sedation or nitrous oxide.
Recommended Reading: Five Qualities of a Great Dentist
2. Scheduling Conflicts
Life is busy, and fitting in a dental appointment during the workday can be challenging. Fortunately, many dental practices now offer extended hours or even Saturday appointments to accommodate their patients’ schedules.
Technological advances have also made it easier to schedule and manage your appointments through online patient portals. Confirm that your chosen dental practice is within your insurance network to avoid unexpected charges.
Online Scheduling Benefits
- Complete and sign documents
- Schedule visits
- Communicate with the dental team
- Communicate with dentist
- Add and verify insurance
- View treatment notes
3. Fear of Unknown Dental Issues
Fear of the unknown is a significant barrier to dental care. However, neglecting dental visits out of fear only leads to more significant, potentially costly issues down the line. Regular dental check-ups can catch potential problems early, leading to less invasive and less expensive treatments.
Remember that early detection limits your chances of more expensive dental treatment.
Also, less invasive treatment may be possible if a dental issue is discovered relatively early. It’s better to deal with a problem sooner than deal with the pain later. At that point, you may feel pain in your mouth and your wallet.
4. Financial Burdens
Financial burdens can be a real obstacle, especially after taking the leap and establishing care at a new dental practice. Before your first visit, evaluate your financial situation for realistic expectations if any treatment is needed.
Unfortunately, dental work can be costly, so it’s best to have a financial plan before starting treatment.
- Do I have insurance?
- Do they take my insurance?
- Are payment plans available?
- What treatment is absolutely needed?
- What happens if I do nothing?
5. Pain and Discomfort
Although it’s last on the list, it’s first on everyone’s mind.
Pain is avoided at all costs because humans respond to pain to protect our bodies from harm. The mouth contains many nerve fibers that leave it feeling sensitive and vulnerable.
Local anesthesia is efficient and can block the pain response to complete treatment. Inform your dentist or dental team member if adequate anesthesia is not achieved.
My Experience & Expertise
Overcoming obstacles at the dentist will allow you to focus on your dental concerns and learn how to manage them.
However, don’t let your fears keep you from regular dental treatment.
Research shows poor oral health correlates with systemic issues, including Alzheimer’s disease. So take the first step and schedule an appointment to become a lifelong dental patient.Recommended Reading: 10 Habits for Improved Oral Health
Need a second opinion? We can help! Learn more. Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!
About the Author
Dr. Matthew Hannan, also known as “Dr. Advocate,” is a board-certified dentist on a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He attended Baylor University before completing dental school at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. He now lives in Arizona with his beautiful wife and 4 kids. Dr. Hannan believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.
Connect with Dr. Hannan!
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