Sweaty palms, a nervous stomach, and overall feelings of anxiety are common among adults when the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair crosses their minds. Although the fear of dental care is prevalent, understanding the reasons behind the fear isn’t nearly as widespread. In recent years, however, numerous researchers have taken on the task of going beneath the surface of dental patients’ hesitation to schedule an appointment.
According to a dental negligence specialist in the UK, nearly 34% of all Brits are fearful of making a dentist appointment for a variety of reasons. Oddly enough, nearly 76% of the individuals surveyed stated their trepidation began in childhood and carried over well into their adult years. Additional research by a university in Norway found similar results, citing an estimated one in five adults had a prohibiting fear of the dentist. In America, millions of people each year avoid making an appointment with a dentist, even when an issue causing ongoing pain. To avoid putting off preventative and corrective care only a dentist can provide, it is necessary to delve deeper into why the fear exists in the first place.
One of the most common reasons individuals dread visiting a dentist office is the correlation it has to a negative, often painful childhood memory. If a dental visit as a child resulted in remarkable pain from the numbing needle or the provider accidentally hitting a nerve ending, that memory is highly likely to remain embedded in one’s mind for years. The thought of visiting a dentist and reliving that pain is too much to bear, and so making an appointment for routine preventative care is not an option. However, recognizing that a bad experience as a child does not always mean the same painful outcome is on the horizon as an adult is a necessary step toward overcoming this common fear. The discomfort associated with severe dental issues, like decayed teeth or serious gum issues, is far more debilitating than visiting the dentist regularly in an effort to avoid problems in the future.
The Sights and Sounds
Adults avoid making a dentist appointment because they simply can’t stomach the sights and sounds of a dental office. Having an already heightened level of anxiety when walking into a dentistry practice or hospital makes the other sense hyper-aware, creating an added feeling of fear to the mix. Hearing a drill while in the waiting room is apt to make anyone run toward the exit, but this discomfort is controllable. Selecting a dental office that has a warm, soothing waiting room and an overall inviting feel helps reduce the initial nervousness. Taking the time to do calming exercises with breath or meditation also decreases the hypersensitivity inside a dental office, making the entire ordeal less scary.
Dental work, especially after a prolonged period of avoiding routine checkups and cleanings, can be invasive. That has the potential to cause pain both during and after a corrective procedure, creating fear and anxiety before stepping foot in a dental office. Fortunately, a skilled dentist knows the impact a gentle touch can have, and most are well trained to provide care in a way that causes minimal pain. For those paralyzed by the thought of discomfort during a dental visit, simply share that with the dentist or staff to ensure proper anesthesia is given before a procedure begins. There are several methods to reduce or altogether take away the pain, but it is the patient’s responsibility to share these concerns early in the process.
Adding to the anxiety of visiting the dentist is the perception that a lecture is inevitable. Dentists are trained to find oral issues early in their progression, and they are tasked with offering suggestions to prevent concerns from getting worse. When dental visits are avoiding throughout adulthood, there are more issues likely to be found with what was thought to be a simple cleaning or exam. The same is imminent when poor dental hygiene is the norm. Patients can sidestep most dentist lectures by scheduling care on a routine basis, which varies for each individual, and by taking the appropriate steps through brushing, flossing, and eating healthy foods to maintain the overall health of their teeth and gums.
Fear of the dentist is common, but it should not impede one’s commitment to their oral health. Whether it is a childhood memory, sensory overload, concern about pain, or wanting to avoid a lecture, anxiety about visiting the dentist office can be reduced by following the steps above. Continuing a schedule of preventative visits and finding a dentist who understands common fears help create a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums – and fewer dentist appointments for serious issues.