“I dread my dentist!” We often come across this statement. It has become a universal fact that dental appointments can be scary for some of you. Dental phobia and anxiety from a dental office is the reason why most of your dental problems aggravate beyond repair.

You tend to avoid the dentist for so long that you end up losing a tooth. Causes of dental phobia and anxiety include an apparition of pain, helplessness, embarrassment and negative past experiences on a dental chair.

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are two distinct problems. Phobia is a psychological and unreasonable fear that you may have from a dentist or a dental procedure. Talking about the process and being prepared beforehand helps with dental phobia.

Dental anxiety, on the other hand, is a physical problem where you may feel undue pressure or pain in the dental chair. Such a problem eases out only when the dentist uses some extra aids like topical anesthetics.

If you are under the influence of such issues, then brush through this piece to know more.

What is dental anxiety and phobia?

People often use the terms dental anxiety and phobia concomitantly. But they don’t mean the same thing.

If you have dental anxiety, you might have a sense of uneasiness when it comes to dental appointments. You may have excessive worries or fears. Dental phobia is a more severe condition. It is an intense psychological fear or dread.

People with dental phobia aren’t merely anxious. They are terrified or panic-stricken. If you have a dental phobia, you might be at a higher risk of gum disease and early tooth loss. Discolored or damaged teeth can make you self-conscious and insecure.

You may want to smile less or keep your mouth partly closed when you speak. Some people can even become so embarrassed about how their teeth look that their personal and professional lives begin to suffer. Dental phobia comes with a severe loss of self-esteem.

With a dental phobia, you may also suffer from poorer health in general, and even lower life expectancy. Poor oral health is in close relation to some morbid conditions, such as heart disease and lung infections.

At the extreme, with dental phobia, you may never see a dentist at all. Some may force themselves to visit a dentist. It’s not unusual for people to feel physically sick before a dental appointment.

In some cases, people get sick while they’re in the waiting room. (1)

Are you suffering from dental anxiety or phobia? The signs

There isn’t any clear boundary that separates anxiety from a phobia. Everyone has apprehensions and concerns and copes with them in different ways.

Some of the signs of dental phobia are –

  • You have trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment.
  • You get nervous while you’re in the waiting room in a dental office.
  • You feel like weeping when you think of going to the dentist.
  • The sight of dental instruments or white-coated personnel in the dentist’s office terrifies you.
  • The thought of a dental treatment makes you feel physically ill.
  • You have trouble breathing when objects enter your mouth during a dental appointment.

Causes of dental anxiety and phobia

People develop dental fears and phobias for many different reasons. Some of the causes are as follows-

Pain

An expectation of immense pain even before a dental treatment has become the leading cause of fear. You may not undergo any pain at all. But the fear of pain clouds your better judgment.

Feelings of helplessness and loss of control

When in the dental chair, you have to stay still. You may have no idea about the treatment making you feel helpless and apprehensive. Feeling helpless triggers dental anxiety.

Embarrassment

Your mouth is an intimate part of the body. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed to have a stranger looking inside. Discomfort may be a particular problem if you’re self-conscious about how their teeth look.

Negative past experiences

If you have had pain or discomfort during previous dental procedures is likely to be more anxious for every other dental appointment that follows.

How to cope with the problem?

Dental phobia, like any other mental disorder, can be treated. Without treatment, a dental phobia may worsen over time. That’s because emotional stress can make dental visits more uncomfortable than they need to be.

Talk to your dentist

Talk to your dentist about all your doubts and irks related to your treatment. Talking about fears helps calm them.

Be well informed and prepared about the course of your treatment

Know all the steps of the procedure that you are about to go through. Knowing what to expect eases the apprehension.

Give a sign when you feel uncomfortable

Raise your hand as soon as you start feeling uncomfortable during the treatment. Moving in the dental chair should be avoided at all cost hence raising your hand to signal the dentist is the best way to manage anxiety.

Dealing with Dental anxiety

People who are unusually apprehensive tend to have a lower pain threshold. If you are one of them, you may feel pain at lower levels than other people. You may need other anesthetic or other pain treatments.

You may even develop stress-related problems in other parts of the body as well. For example, headaches or muscle stiffness in the neck or back. Let your dentist know about this as soon as possible so that he may take measures to ease your discomfort. (2)

Final thoughts

Dental anxiety is manageable with extra pain treatment measures. Dental phobia can be dealt with a little counseling or a chat with your dentist before the treatment.

If you suffer from either one or both of these problems, face them rather than avoiding your dentist. Avoiding these problems and avoiding therapy will only worsen your condition.

The more you delay a dental appointment, the more you worsen your dental health. These issues are not worth losing your tooth over.

Causes of dental phobia and anxiety include an apparition of pain, helplessness, embarrassment & negative past experiences on a dental chair.