Overcoming Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Overcoming Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

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Many people are apprehensive about visiting the dentist.  And although we often joke about this situation, it’s no laughing matter.  Dental anxiety and dental phobia are serious issues which threaten the health of millions of people. In fact:

It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. That’s about 30 million to 40 million people.

The Difference Between Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are related conditions, but dental phobia can bemuch more intense.  People with dental anxiety  “will have a sense of uneasiness when it’s time for their appointment.” However, people with dental phobia report feeling “exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears” that can render them “terrified or panic stricken.”

Why People Are Reluctant to Go to the Dentist

People are reluctant to go to the dentist for various reasons. Perhaps they had a bad experience with a dentist years ago and they still associate it with all dentists.

Unfortunately,  such unpleasant events from the past and other circumstances can prompt a patient’s anxiety about visiting the dentist. Patients frequently report the following triggers for dental anxiety and dental phobia:

  • A sense of helplessness
  • Fear of pain
  • “Extreme Startle Response”–A Condition which often results from childhood trauma and abuse
  • Concern about being given unnecessary treatment
  • Fear of injections
  • Uneasiness about being tipped back in their chair
  • Memories of unpleasant dental experiences
  • Apprehension caused by thinking about other health concerns
  • Anxiety about the possibility of gagging
  • Discomfort caused by the sound of dental machinery
  • Self-consciousness about the condition of their teeth

The Consequences of Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Of course,when people avoid going to the dentist, they are likely to suffer the following consequences:

  • Cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Losing your teeth

But avoiding the dentist doesn’t just damage your smile.  It can also result in serious medical conditions, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Premature childbirth

What Dentists Can Do to Reduce Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

There are several things that dentists can do to help alleviate apprehensions for all of their patients, especially those who might be struggling with dental anxiety or dental phobia:

  • Try to be as gentle as possible
  • Speak in a soft and non-threatening manner
  • Frequently reassure patients
  • Select “scrubs” with soft, calming colors such as blue.

What Patients Can Do to Reduce Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

There are several strategies you can employ if dental anxiety or dental phobia makes it difficult for you to go to the dentist. Counselors often employ the following techniques:

  • Systematic Desensitization
  • Hypnosis
  • Visualization
  • Breathing exercises

A Gentle and Welcoming Environment

At Tharp, Klaus, and Kelly Dental Clinic in Jackson, we strive to make all our patients feel welcome and secure. If you’ve been avoiding the dentist, why not give us a try?


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