Does the idea of going to the dentist make you nervous? You’re not alone! An estimated 36% of people in the U.S. experience dental anxiety before and during dental appointments.
Whether you have a specific or general fear of the dentist, it’s important to recognize it and take the steps to ease the feelings of anxiety so that your oral health continues to be taken care of by a dental professional.
Keep reading to learn about the top reasons people fear the dentist and the truth behind them so you’re prepared for your next appointment.
Reasons people fear the dentist
Although there are many reasons people may have dental anxiety, there are six fears that tend to be the most common.
Fear of pain
Many people are afraid of experiencing pain during dental visits. If you’re worried about feeling pain during dental procedures, it’s important to remember that your dental team wants you to be comfortable throughout the appointment. While certain aspects of a dental procedure may be uncomfortable, your dentist is there to make sure that you’re as pain-free as possible.
Be sure to talk with your dental team about any concerns related to pain before a procedure begins and let them know if you are experiencing pain at any point during the procedure. Many times, there are options available to keep any pain or anxiety at bay.
The truth: There are many options available when it comes to pain control. Talk to your dentist to decide which options are best for you.
Fear of the unknown
Not knowing what to expect can be scary for anyone, especially at the dentist. If it’s been a while since you’ve had an appointment or need to go in for a procedure you’ve never had before, it’s normal to be nervous.
Be sure to talk with your dentist before your cleaning or procedure starts so that you have a good idea of what to expect. Try not to search online beforehand to avoid misinformation and rely on your dentist’s expertise instead.
The truth: If you’re anxious about the unknown, be sure to talk with your dentist before your cleaning or procedure. They will be able to walk you through the entire process so there are no surprises.
Fear of needles
Another common fear people have is of the needles that may be used during dental procedures. Needles are often used to inject anesthesia into the gums or other soft tissues in the mouth to numb the area during dental work.
Typically, needles used for dental work are very small and come in a variety of lengths ranging from long to ultra-short. No matter what the length of the needle is, only a small portion of it will be inserted into the gum or tissue. In some cases, your dentist may apply a numbing cream before an injection to reduce or prevent any pain.
The truth: Some dental work requires injections to numb gums or tissues in the mouth. Be sure to speak with your dentist if you have a fear of needles. They will likely numb the area beforehand to ease anxiety.
Fear of the dentist
If you’ve had a negative experience with a dentist in the past, you may have a fear of all dentists. Maybe a previous dentist didn’t listen to your concerns or did not take your pain seriously.
If you’ve had a bad experience at the dentist, it’s important to not give up and continue to look for a better fit. Picking the perfect dentist for you may take time, but it will be worth it in the end. For tips about how to pick the right dentist for you, check out this article.
The truth: One bad experience with a dentist doesn’t mean that they will all be like that. Take the time to interview and try new dental offices until you find the one that feels right.
Fear of gagging
Gagging is never a pleasant experience, especially in a dentist’s office. Dental tools, suction devices and X-ray paraphernalia in your mouth may make you gag, and that’s OK! The gag reflex has a purpose: to keep foreign objects from going to your lungs. Unfortunately, it’s hard for our bodies to tell the difference between a dental tool and a piece of food.
Dentists and dental hygienists have a lot of experience with patients gagging and often have solutions for the gagging reflex. They may have you focus on breathing through your nose or encourage you to drool during procedures. If you have a severe gag reflex, there are medications available to stop or reduce it.
The truth: Many people gag at the dentist. Don’t stress about it and be sure to tell your dentist or hygienist about it before starting any procedures. They will advise you on what to do to reduce or stop the reflex.
Fear of the cost
Another common fear that some people have of the dentist is of the bill that comes after the work. If you’re worried about paying for treatment, it may keep you from going to the dentist on a regular basis.
The good news is that if you have dental insurance, preventive cleanings are usually 100% covered and other dental procedures have a lower cost. Dental care focuses on preventive measures rather than restorative, meaning that going to regular cleanings can help prevent invasive procedures in the long run. This approach can save you money and unnecessary pain.
The truth: If a fear of paying for dental treatment is stopping you from going to the dentist, there are options available. Make sure you have dental coverage to reduce out-of-pocket costs, and continue to see a dentist on a regular basis to prevent serious dental conditions, which cost more to treat.
The truth behind fears of the dentist
If you have a fear of the dentist, for whatever reason, it’s important to know that there is usually a solution to make the entire experience more comfortable. Talk with your dental team openly so they can provide the best care for your specific needs. Don’t let dental anxiety or dental phobia keep you from having a healthy mouth and smile!
For more tips on how to ease dental anxiety, check out these apps that might help.