Anxieties about dental visits are common, but for some, fear of the appointment is enough to put off routine dental care, resulting in deteriorating dental health that could otherwise be preventable. Given that dental health has a relationship to a number of other overall health issues, it is important that adults try to overcome their fear of the dentist through a better understanding of their fears and ways to combat them.
Getting to the root of the problem
There is a difference between dental anxiety and phobia, according to Colgate. The former refers to the stress that results from the prospect of going to the dentist. The phobia, however, is an intense fear that often forces people to cope with painful dental problems themselves before going to a dentist. According to a Colgate report reviewed by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, an estimated 9 to 15 percent of Americans do not go to the dentist because of such anxieties and phobias.
People fear the dentist for a number of reasons, pain being foremost among them. Dental Fear Central - a website dedicated to overcoming dental fears - noted about a dozen other types of potential sources for anxiety, including loss of situational control in a dentist's chair, gagging or choking, being awake during surgeries, cost of treatment and fear of embarrassment. While dental phobia may need to be treated by a medical professional, adults can try a number of techniques to help calm themselves before going to a dentist's chair.
Overcoming dental fears
One of the best ways to overcome dental anxieties is to talk with the dentist. Trust is key during a dental appointment, and the best way to establish a trusting relationship is communication. Patients should feel free to ask their dentists to walk them through procedures. A running explanation of every step in the dental procedure - from what is being done and why - can help make feel patients more in control of their situation.
Relaxation prior to a dental appointment can also be beneficial. Listening to soothing music in the waiting room can help keep patients' minds off of the dental chair. Ann MacDonald, a contributor to the Harvard Health Blog, recently polled readers for other means of pre-dental care relaxation - one recommended way to calm down was to listen to music or funny podcasts even while in the dental chair.
Before the dental appointment, patients may also want to try meditative relaxation practices, such as controlled breathing and yoga to help ease their fears.
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