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Tips to Help You Manage Dental Anxiety (and Keep Your Appointment!)

Tips to Help You Manage Dental Anxiety (and Keep Your Appointment!)

Although Psychology Today reports “fear of pain” as the number one driver for avoiding dental visits altogether, there are myriad reasons for why people habitually skip the dental chair.


If you experience extreme symptoms (skipping appointments unless forced to go, having trouble sleeping the night before, an inability to enter the office, feeling physically ill or intense unease if you do), these could even be signs of true dentophobia.


Think you’re all alone? Think again – 15% of Americans experience some form of it!

With that in mind, here are some of the most common concerns and recommended strategies to help you relax and get your teeth the care they need:


It’s Going to Hurt!


If you’re nervous about pain, tell the dentist. Today’s dental offices use extremely safe, efficient, fast-acting local anesthetics pretty much across the board.


If needles make you shudder, a bit of nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) should round off the edge. Sedation is also available for those with unrelenting nerves, but remember you’ll need a designated driver with this option.


In any case, be vocal, and be honest. You and your dentist will be able to find a solution that’s right for you.


I Feel So Out of Control!


It’s true, you’re confined to a chair. You’re unable to talk. And you’ve got a paper napkin tied snugly around your neck.


Again, though, communication is key. Let your dental professionals know how you feel and they can work with you. For example, you could set break times and create hand signals for when you need them.


A full explanation of the work you’re having done can make you feel more in control, too. Often, just knowing what’s coming helps calm the nerves.


It’s Always a Horrible Experience!


This is the second most common reason patients avoid the chair, and root causes are all over the map – billing issues, unfriendly front office staff, insensitive assistants.


Think of it like any relationship: if you plan to stay with the same dental practice, discuss your grievances and allow them to correct the situation. Otherwise you’re just assuming they’ll know what’s wrong and fix it – but often that’s not the case.


Know this: it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to be comfortable while you’re there. After all, maintaining a happy client base is key in building a thriving practice.


In other words, they want to keep you happy, but the first step is knowing that you’re not happy – and why.


If you’ve decided on a new office, don’t go in already expecting bad things. Give them the benefit of the doubt.


I Can’t Afford the Treatment I Need!


We totally understand how dental costs can feel prohibitive – especially when dental anxiety has kept you from a visit for years. The thing is, most oral conditions don’t get better without addressing them. And continued avoidance can lead to greater issues and even greater costs.


The good news – dental offices want to help you get for the care you need. They can work with you on insurance coverage, and in creating comfortable payment planning options.


I Haven’t Been in So Long!


All these other fears can also create a new one: embarrassment about your oral condition.


Again, though, it’s not going to get better without help – it will only get worse.


Besides, we can assure you – your dentist has seen it all. Dental professionals chose this line of work because they want to help patients treat oral conditions they can’t address alone. Continuing not to go only perpetuates any fears you have about the current condition of your oral health.


After reviewing this list, you can see that often, the actual dental visit isn’t what you’re afraid of, but rather a whole host of fears triggered by the thought of the appointment – experiencing pain, feeling trapped, even being judged or not being able to pay.


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Don’t let those fears get in the way of your good health. When you do make it in, you may be pleasantly surprised to find you don’t need much more than regular preventative cleanings.