For many people, visiting the dentist is a major source of anxiety and fear. Dental phobia, also known as dentophobia, is a common condition that can prevent individuals from seeking necessary dental care, whether that’s a routine cleaning, a crown to protect a tooth, or a filling to stop decay.
If you’re one of the 36% of Americans with dentophobia, you might wonder why you’re so scared and, most importantly, what you can do about it. Understanding the reasons behind this fear can help alleviate your concerns so you can explore available options to make dental visits more comfortable and stress-free.
Here, Kevin Miller, DDS, highlights some of the reasons why you might be scared of going to the dentist and the potential solutions to address these fears at Dentistry in Paradise in Santa Barbara, California.
Understanding dental phobia and anxiety
The first 一 and arguably most important 一 step in overcoming phobia is to pinpoint your specific anxiety triggers. Dental anxiety can stem from various factors, including:
Fear of pain
Some people associate dental visits with pain due to their own past traumatic experiences or stories they’ve heard. The fear of injections, drilling, or other frightening aspects of dental procedures can cause significant anxiety.
Fear of sensations
For some, it’s not just the fear of pain that bothers them. The sounds, sights, and smells of the dental equipment can also trigger nervous feelings.
Loss of control
Sitting in the dental chair can make some people feel vulnerable and out of control. Not being able to see what the dentist is doing or feeling trapped in the chair can intensify anxiety.
Additionally, not knowing what to expect or not fully understanding each step of a procedure can also contribute to fear of the unknown and an increased sensation of loss of control.
Embarrassment or judgment
Individuals who feel self-conscious about their oral health or the appearance of their teeth may fear being judged by their care team. This fear can make them hesitant to seek professional dental services.
Previous traumatic experiences
Negative experiences with dental procedures in the past, such as painful treatments or insensitive dental professionals, can create long-lasting fear and anxiety.
Addressing dental anxiety
If you experience dental anxiety, it's essential to communicate your fears to Dr. Miller and his team. We can help create a comfortable environment and offer solutions to alleviate anxiety, such as:
Dr. Miller may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, such as Valium or similar drugs, to help ensure you’re relaxed during dental procedures. These medications can reduce anxiety levels and make the experience more manageable.
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
Nitrous oxide is a commonly used sedation method in dental offices. It induces a relaxed and euphoric state, helping you feel more at ease during your treatment. The effects wear off quickly afterward, allowing you to resume your daily activities without any lingering sedation.
Laughing gas is safe for almost all patients — let your care team know if you’re pregnant or have a respiratory illness, and ask about other risk factors. There’s no pill to swallow, making this an easy type of dental sedation.
Our team also offers various distractions to help patients relax during treatment. Screens mounted above the dental chair provide entertainment, such as Netflix, allowing you to tune out and focus on something enjoyable rather than the dental procedure itself.
Establishing open communication with Dr. Miller, the dental hygienists, and the dental assistants is crucial. Sharing your fears, concerns, and past experiences can help our team tailor the treatment approach to your specific needs. Keep in mind that all of our dental professionals are trained to provide compassionate care and ensure your comfort throughout the process.
Don’t let fear keep you from getting the care you need
Are you scared of going to the dentist? Dental anxiety is a common fear that can prevent you from receiving essential dental care.
However, it's important to remember that our non-judgemental team is experienced in handling anxious patients, and we have various techniques to help put you at ease. We help you take steps toward overcoming your dental anxiety, explaining each step of a procedure, and ensuring a positive dental experience.
We’re just a call or a click away. Reach us by calling 805-967-0272 or using our online appointment request form. Remember: Your oral health is vital, and we’re here to help you maintain a healthy smile.