Written by Aaron J. Hayes, DDS

Dr. Aaron Hayes, DDS

If going to the dentist makes you anxious or nervous you are not alone. Dental fear or dental anxiety affects between 9 and 20 percent of Americans. Some of these fears stem from prior traumatic dental events, while others fear pain or needles or suffer from claustrophobia.

On many occasions, these individuals exhibit classic avoidance behavior and will do everything possible to avoid the dentist. Avoidance of preventive dental care, however, results in compromised oral health culminating in dental emergencies such as toothaches or abscesses. Being more informed about dental fears and possible treatment options may be the first step in overcoming dental anxiety and improving oral health.

Common dental fears according to dentalfearcentral.org:

  • Fear of dental injections and/or needles
  • The noise of dental instruments
  • Fear of painful treatment
  • Dentist not stopping when patient is distressed or in pain
  • Not being told what’s going on

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Discuss your dental treatment plan and your fears with your dental provider. Partnering with your dentist will help make you as comfortable as possible and ease your tension. Request numbing the area first with flavored topical anesthetic prior to injections to make the procedure much more comfortable. Consider using headphones with your favorite music to help you relax and block out the noise of dental instruments. Have a signal with your dentist to pause treatment if you begin to become uncomfortable—such as raising your hand. If you would like to know what is happening during each step of the procedure, let your dentist know. This can be a simple way to be more aware of treatment sounds, while mentally preparing for each step in the process. Communication of your dental fears with your dentist is paramount and the first step in overcoming fears.

For those unable to overcome their fears even through communication with the dentist and the above techniques, there is great news for you: sedation dentistry. Using oral or intravenous medication may be an option to help you overcome your fears. Conscious sedation enables treatment to be completed while the patient is relaxed and comfortable. Fears can be eliminated and overcome with this safe technique while providing maximum comfort for the patient. On many occasions, years of dental neglect can be corrected in a single relaxing visit while the patient will likely have no recollection of the treatment. Smiles can be beautifully restored and confidence renewed in a calm, tranquil environment.

This relaxing way to have dentistry accomplished can be an excellent way to restore your oral health and overcome dental fears. For additional information, visit www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears or www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-dental-fear-adults.