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Fear of the dentist is no small thing, especially if it keeps people from getting the dental care they need. Surveys have shown that many people skip their regular trips to the dentist because they are afraid, and this may set them up for a lifetime of cavities and gum disease. This is why individuals who are afraid of the dentist need to tackle the problem head-on and do everything they can to overcome being uncomfortable about entering a dental office.
The Huffington Post spoke to New York City-based dentist Louis Siegelman, D.D.S., who explained that he's seen some extreme cases of dental fear in his day. He said that he often sees patients activate their "fight-or-flight" response the second they walk into the building.
"It's life or death, it's fight for your life or run for your life," Siegelman told the news source. "That's really what the core of this mechanism is. I've met people out in the hallway hugging the wall, I've had people I've had to meet outside the office because they couldn't bring themselves in."
Luckily, there are ways that people can overcome even the strongest fears of the dentist.
Have a talk - Siegelman told the news source that when he gets a new patient, he doesn't have him or her come in and sit in the chair right away. Instead, the patient will sit in his office and have a chat about what types of procedures the dentist wants to do and explain a bit about him or herself, and Seigelman always keeps the door open so the patient doesn't get claustrophobic. However, not all dentists have the time to do this, which is why people who want to talk to their dental health professional like this should let the receptionist know while they're booking the appointment so he or she can schedule enough time for it.
Look for another dentist - Dental Health Magazine states that if people feel uncomfortable around their dentist, they may need another one. There are dentists who specialize in anxious patients, and know exactly how to quell their fears. According to the news source, these dentists will constantly ask a patient during the procedure if it is alright for them to continue, and will allow time to take frequent breaks during the procedure so the patient feels comfortable.
Hold the tools - Sometimes, what people are most afraid of is not the dentist, but the tools he or she uses. If this is the case, Siegelman recommends that patients ask to hold and examine the tools. If they can feel them in their hands so they don't seem so foreign, they may be less afraid.
Bring a distraction - Another common dental fear is the sound of the drill and other noises commonly associated with the dental office. To drown out these sounds, Dental Health Magazine recommends brining an MP3 player so you can listen to music, or even a book on tape. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something soothing so that you'll feel calm - you won't want to listen to loud music that will make you anxious.
Ask about sedation - Finally, people with a truly paralyzing fear of the dentist should ask about all of the sedation options available. From pills to laughing gas, there are many different ways for patients to be sedated during their dental cleaning or procedure, without having to experience a host of side effects or grogginess for hours afterward. Most dental offices offer these options, so people should easily be able to find one in their area that does.
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