Dentophobia is the fear of dentists and dental procedures. It's one of the most common phobias in the world, and it can severely impact people's lives. People with dentophobia may avoid going to the dentist altogether, which can lead to serious oral health problems. In this blog post, we’ll discuss ways to overcome dentophobia.
How I overcame my fear of the dentist… by facing it!
In some instances you can overcome the fear of the dentist yourself… that’s what I did! I used to be absolutely terrified of the dentist after a bad experience as a child.
I had to have a tooth extracted, a baby tooth luckily, but the procedure went wrong somehow and what should have been a quick extraction turned into 45 minutes of them yanking the tooth out and seven injections.
As a primary school-aged child (I can’t remember my exact age), I was terrified and in agony!
It put me off the dentist for the rest of my childhood and into adulthood. I did continue to see the dentist as a child, but often with tears running down my face as I was so scared.
As an adult, I chose not to go to the dentist as I still had the scary memory and the fear instilled. This was stupid really as dental hygiene is so important.
However, this changed once I became pregnant with my first child. I realised I could have a free NHS dentist appointment whilst pregnant.
I’d also noticed stains on the back of my teeth from being a previous smoker for a decade, but I didn’t know they were stains and thought I had rotted my teeth!
This was the push I needed to get to the dentist and have my first appointment in over ten years to check my teeth.
I decided that because I was having a baby and would be experiencing childbirth and all the other stuff that comes with it, if I could do that, then I could handle a dentist appointment!
So I booked an appointment and faced my fear. Once I had decided I was going to do it and not be scared about it, I didn’t feel worried anymore. I felt like I had taken control of my fear and made the decision mot to be scared anymore.
The dentist appointment was absolutely fine and my fear was gone. Luckily, I hadn’t rotted my teeth as I was so worried about, but it was just staining which they were able to remove there and then. Phew.
A few years later I even decided to have cosmetic dentistry having train track braces fitted for over two and a half years, then whitening, bridgework, bonding and allsorts to give me the perfectly straight smile. Something I would never have imagined doing in my early twenties as I was so scared of the dentist!
Now it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve even turned down injections or numbing when I’ve been offered for smaller procedures like removing and replacing bonding. The pain and discomfort doesn’t bother me any longer.
It’s sometimes amazing how facing your fear and realising it is completely irrational can fix it.
So what are the steps you can try to overcome your fear of the dentist?
1) First and foremost, it's important to understand that you're not alone
Dentophobia is a very common phobia, and you can absolutely overcome it. There are many resources available to help you overcome your fear of dentists and dental procedures. There are online forums, support groups, and even therapy options available.
You should reach out for help if you're feeling overwhelmed or struggling to cope on your own. It's also helpful to educate yourself about dental procedures so that you know what to expect ahead of time.
2) Another important step is to find a dentist that you trust
One of the main reasons people have a fear of dentists is because they've had a bad experience in the past. Maybe they had a traumatic procedure like I did, or maybe they just didn't like their previous dentist. Whatever the case may be, it's important to find a new dentist that you feel comfortable with.
Ask your friends and family for recommendations, or look for reviews online. Once you've found a few potential options, schedule consultations so that you can meet the dentists and get a feel for their office and staff. It's also important to make sure that they're able to provide the services that you need.
When it comes to finding a dentist you trust, conducting a search specifically tailored to your location can be incredibly helpful. For example, if you're residing in Richmond, it's essential to find a dentist Richmond residents can rely on. By incorporating the phrase dentist Richmond into your online search, you can narrow down your options to dental professionals in your local area who are well-equipped to cater to your needs.
Remember, the goal is to find a dentist who not only understands your dentophobia but also provides top-notch dental care within your local community.
3) Avoiding unnecessary discomfort
One of the best ways to ease your anxiety about dental appointments is to avoid unnecessary discomfort. If you don't like the numbing gel, ask the dentist to use a different method. If you're afraid of needles, let them know so that they can use another type of anaesthesia. You should also feel free to ask questions and voice any concerns that you have.
Another way to ease your anxiety about dental appointments is to avoid serious problems. If you have a history of cavities, gum disease, or other dental issues, be sure to let your dentist know so that they can take extra care of you.
And if you're particularly anxious about a certain procedure, ask them to walk you through it step-by-step so that you know what to expect.
4) Don't be afraid to ask for accommodations
If you have a fear of dental procedures, it's important to communicate this to your dentist. They should be willing to work with you to make sure that you're comfortable and safe during your appointment. This may mean sedation options or taking extra time to explain what they're doing.
Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and ask for the accommodations that you need. Remember, you're in control of your own treatment, and you have the right to feel safe and comfortable during your appointments.
5) Practice relaxation techniques before and during the dental visit
Incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine before and during dental visits can significantly reduce your anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, or listening to calming music can help you relax and stay calm. Consider practicing these techniques both at home and in the dental office to create a sense of familiarity and ease.
6) Bring a support person with you
Having someone you trust accompany you to dental appointments can provide a comforting presence and emotional support. Whether it's a family member, friend, or partner, having them by your side can help alleviate your dentophobia. They can hold your hand, distract you with conversation, or simply be there to reassure you throughout the procedure.
7) Gradually expose yourself to dental settings
Gradual exposure is a technique commonly used to overcome phobias. Start by visiting the dental office without any treatment scheduled, just to familiarise yourself with the environment and the staff. Over time, gradually progress to scheduling shorter and less invasive procedures, such as dental cleanings, before working up to more complex treatments. Each positive experience will help build your confidence and reduce your fear.
8) Seek distraction during the procedure
Distraction techniques can be effective in diverting your attention away from dental procedures. Bring headphones and listen to your favorite music, podcast, or audiobook during the treatment. Some dental offices also provide TVs or virtual reality headsets that allow you to immerse yourself in a different world while the dentist works on your teeth.
9) Consider sedation options
For individuals with severe dentophobia, sedation dentistry can be a viable option. Talk to your dentist about sedation techniques such as oral sedatives, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or intravenous (IV) sedation. These methods can help you relax or even induce a state of temporary unconsciousness during the procedure, ensuring a more comfortable experience.
10) Maintain good oral hygiene habits
Taking care of your oral health through regular brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash can significantly reduce your need for extensive dental procedures. By practicing good oral hygiene, you can minimise the frequency of visits to the dentist, which can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with dental appointments. Additionally, maintaining a healthy smile can boost your confidence and overall well-being.
11) Consider therapy or counseling
If your dentophobia persists despite your best efforts, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specialises in anxiety or phobias. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be particularly helpful in addressing the root causes of your fear and developing effective coping strategies. A trained professional can guide you through exposure therapy and provide you with tools to manage and overcome your dentophobia.
In conclusion, overcoming dentophobia is possible with the proper support and resources. If you or someone you know is struggling with a fear of dentists, reach out for help. There are many people who understand what you're going through and can offer guidance and support. To have straight teeth with a beautiful smile is a dream of any person and with the right tools, you can take control of your anxiety and achieve your goals!
Remember, overcoming dentophobia is a journey, and it's important to be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process. With the right support, techniques, and mindset, you can gradually conquer your fear and achieve a healthier, happier smile.
Related blog posts to read next
- How much do adult braces cost? + 4 ways to finance them
- How to afford dental treatments
- How much does a smile makeover cost?
- Braces at 30 before + after photos
- Foods to avoid for a whiter smile + my teeth whitening experience