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4 Simple Steps to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist

A modernly equipped dentist office.An estimated 75 percent of Americans fear going to the dentist, with dental anxiety ranging from mild to severe. Some people fear the dentist so much they will only go if they absolutely have to. Maybe you’ve had a bad dental experience in the past, or you’ve heard horror stories from others. Or perhaps you just have issues with anxiety in general.

Whatever the reason for your dental phobia, it’s important to overcome it, as going to the dentist on a regular basis is an essential to maintaining good overall health.

Learn how to overcome your fear of the dentist in 4 simple steps.

1. Educate yourself on the dental procedure you fear

Almost everyone fears the unknown — it’s human nature. The more you educate yourself on something, the less scary it will seem. If you’re afraid of getting a particular dental procedure, talk about it to a dental professional or browse the internet to learn more about whatever it is you fear.

For example, when you learn more about root canals, you’ll discover they are not so scary after all and will actually put an end to dental pain rather than cause it. Or, if you need to fix a gap in your smile but are afraid to, learning about the health benefits of dental implants will help diminish your fear when you realize how this dental procedure can improve your life.

2. Choose a dentist you trust

To ease your dental fear, it’s very important that you trust your dentist. Many people fear going to the dentist because they feel out of control — when you’re in the dentist’s chair, the man or woman with the sharp, scary tools has all the control. Therefore, you need to feel safe with this person.

Peter Milgrom, DDS, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that the best dentists use techniques to enhance the patient’s sense of control. For example, they gently explain all procedures so you know what to expect and for how long. They will also frequently ask how you feel during procedures and let you know that they can stop at any time if you say the word.

When evaluating a dentist, ask them any pressing questions you have and tell them about your fears. They should take your fear seriously and devote the necessary time to answer your questions adequately.

3. Use behavioral techniques for dental fear

If you still have a lot of anxiety about going to the dentist after educating yourself on what to expect with your dental visit and talking with a dentist you trust, you can use behavioral techniques to help ease your fear.

Learn and practice some relaxation methods, such as deep breathing techniques, which you can use during the procedure. There are also various distraction methods, such as watching television or listening to music during your dental visit.

If anxiety is severe, there are a couple things you can do:

  • Get a referral from your doctor to receive cognitive behavioral therapy to address your dental phobia.
  • Talk to your dentist or physician about sedation options, including anti-anxiety medication.

4. Practice good dental habits

After you receive your dreaded dental procedure, you’ll probably realize that it wasn’t so scary after all. And you now have the opportunity to start fresh with good dental habits. The better your dental habits, the less often you’ll need to get any dental work done.

In addition to brushing and flossing regularly, good dental habits also include going to the dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning. Not only will regular dental visits keep your teeth in good shape, but they will also help you get used to being at the dentist so that you become more at ease in the dentist’s chair.

If you fear going to the dentist, I’m more than up to the challenge of helping you overcome your dental phobia. Give me a call to set up a time when we can sit down together and chat. I’m more than happy to take all the time you need to discuss about any concerns and give you the reassurance and information you need to calm your fears.

Eli Thornock
I was born and raised in eastern Washington and I received my dental training at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Class of 2011. Since then, I have been practicing in a private practice setting and have also completed more than one hundred hours of continuing education.
Eli Thornock
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