little girl in dental chair looking worried

Ways to Cope with Fear of the Dentist

Are you stressed about going to the dentist? You’re not alone. Many people are afraid to go to the dentist, for a variety of different reasons. Some people may have had negative experiences with dentists in the past. Others may fear the lack of control they have while in a dental chair.

Knowing what exactly makes you afraid of going to the dentist can help you take action against your anxiety. Here are four reasons people are afraid of the dentist and what you can do to alleviate your fear:

The Dentist

If you've had a bad experience with a dentist in the past, you may think that all dentists are bad, uncaring people. However, not all dentists are the same. Remember that dentistry is a service that you are paying for, so you can interview dentists before enlisting their services.

A good dentist is one that doesn't assume that each patient has the same pain threshold and one who will handle dental procedures differently for different people. The dentist you want will make sure that you are comfortable before proceeding. Know that many dentists have practices specially targeted towards fearful patients and can offer things like sedation.

Loss of Control

Many people fear the inability to communicate with the dentist during a procedure or fear not knowing what a procedure entails. Solutions could include:

  1. Agreeing on a stop signal with your dentist so he or she knows when you need a break or are in distress.
  2. Predetermining with your dentist how often breaks will be taken during a procedure.
  3. Choosing to have only one procedure done per appointment. Know that dentists must have your consent before performing a procedure.
  4. Asking the dentist to explain everything to you before a procedure takes place.
  5. Telling your dentist your fears and determining how the procedure will be handled are great ways to be more in control.

The Drill

Many people are afraid of the drill. They may associate the sound of the drill with perceived pain. Perhaps due to experiencing pain in the past due to improper numbing or partial numbing. These ideas can help you lessen your fear:

  1. Bring music to drown the sound of the drill out. There are even some music tracks out there specifically created to blend out the sounds of the drill.
  2. Get familiar with the drill. Ask your dentist if you can touch and hear the drill before the procedure so you can get a realistic idea of what the drill is really like.

Gag Reflex

Some people are afraid to go to the dentist because of their gag reflex, which could be due to psychological or physiological factors. Here are actions you can take:

  1. Breathe deeply through your nose. This suppresses your urge to gag.
  2. Use a throat spray with numbing action or a snore relief spray.
  3. Desensitize your gag reflex at home by gently putting a toothbrush or even borrowed tools from your dentist onto your palate and controlling your reflex by breathing through your nose.

For a more extensive list of dental fears and ways to cope with them, click here.

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