“I hate coming to the dentist!” Those words used to send shivers down my spine. I used to take the statement personally – until I realized how many patients suffer from some sort of dental nervousness.
Per the National Institute of Mental Health:
DENTAL ANXIETY (orodontophobia) PLAGUES 40 MILLION Americans age 18 and older, thus making it the most common mental illness in the U.S.!
This serious condition increases the risk of gum disease, cavities, and oral cancer due to the avoidance of seeking care at a dental facility. Delaying a dental check-up allows a small cavity to grow into a larger toothache, and this can make dental anxiety climb even higher!
I soon realized a patient’s fear of the dental office had little to do with me as a person, but rather from a previously traumatic experience. I learned it could even stem from the uncertainty of what is taking place during well-intentioned care. As dental professionals, we do our best to generate a feeling of comfort and attentiveness to our patients in the chair, but moreover, we intuitively understand and empathize with those who suffer from dental anxiety.
If you or someone you know is experiencing dental anxiety, be sure to let us know. It always helps to talk about the anxiety even if you don’t know where it originates. We strive to communicate the procedures so there are no surprises, but always feel free to ask questions if you are curious regarding any part of the process. Bring headphones to listen to your favorite music or hold a fidget spinner to distract and flow you through the appointment. Last, but not least, don’t forget to breathe! Slow, deep breathing relaxes the muscles and slows the heart to calm the body.
To get started, choose short, but frequent visits at the dental office which will reduce your anxiety so that WITH TIME AND A HISTORY OF POSITIVE EXPERIENCES, you will begin to feel at ease in the new-found comfort of your -dare I say it? – dental home. 🙂
Written by: Nancy Ulmer, Registered Dental Hygienist at Dr. B. Dentistry