Last week, a woman in her 40s (we’ll call her Anne) called our dental office after hours because she was suffering from a severe toothache. In fact, she admitted that her tooth had been throbbing and keeping her up at night for two weeks already. Why hadn’t she called us sooner? One simple reason: Fear. A dentophobe, Anne hadn’t visited the dentist in over 3 years, so she was worried about what we might say, think, or do. She’s not alone.
Fear of going to the dentist is very common in the US.
In fact, nearly 60% of people fear going to the dentist, and about 9% have a true phobia. For many, this fear prevents them from visiting a dentist until a dental emergency occurs, just as was the case with Anne. Furthermore, the longer someone avoids visiting the dentist, the more they fear being chastised by dental professionals when they finally do muster their courage and make an appointment.
The good news, though, is that you can overcome your dental fear, so you can enjoy better oral health. And we promise there are dental teams out there who understand.
In an effort to help you reclaim your oral health, here are 6 simple ways to overcome your fear of the dentist!
1. Identify what truly frightens you about dental visits.
Not all fear grows from the same seed. Thus, in order to find the best techniques to help you overcome your dental anxiety, you’ll first need to know what your triggers are. Are you afraid of pain? Needles? All of the above? To help you get started, we’ve provided a chart below with some of the most common fear triggers patients in our care have mentioned over the years. Feel free to add in your unique concerns in the blanks provided. Some patients find it helpful to reflect on specific experiences they’ve had which led to their fears, too, to better understand their fears.
Click on our Dental Fear Evaluation Chart below to open a printable, pdf version to use at home.
2. Communicate your fears to your dentist and dental team.
Don’t be embarrassed to tell your dentist and dental team your fears. We promise that a good dentist won’t find them silly! Rather, the best dentists will want you to share your fears and concerns before your first visit, so they can be prepared to support you in as many areas as possible. At our dental practice, we see patients every day with these fears. Knowing about fears ahead of time ensures we schedule a little extra time with fearful patients, so we can take it slowly. Likewise, we can arrange a more private treatment room if needed to minimize noises from other patients. In short, with knowledge, we can prepare a better experience for you.
3. Schedule an office visit BEFORE your first treatment appointment if possible.
Fear of any unknown can always cause anxiety to grow. Help nip additional fear from creeping up on you by visiting the office before you need a “real” appointment. Again, a caring dental team understands. They’ll help you find a day and stop to stop by to meet team members and to tour the facility. Even this little bit of familiarity will decrease your anxiety the day of a treatment visit. You’ll already be confident that you like the team, the location, and the overall feel of the facility. This visit could be a good time, too, to share your specific dental fears with team members.
4. Schedule appointments first thing in the morning.
Try to get appointments first thing in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, you’ll avoid fearing and dreading your visit all day. Similarly, your nerves won’t already be frazzled from a stressful day at work. Thus, you’ll be at your emotional best to breathe and relax. Second, you won’t risk other appointments running behind or longer than anticipated. In other words, you’ll spend less time fretting in the waiting room before your appointment.
5. Ask for what you need.
Although most dentists are fairly skilled at reading head nods and gurgles, they often need more clear communication from patients for the greatest success. Indeed, caring dentists want to ensure the best communication possible. Before any treatment begins, communicate some of the following needs to your dentist to help you both. For example, below are three common items to discuss with your dentist before any work begins:
Ask for a clear STOP signal you can give.
Request sensory comforts like earphones and blankets if they help.
Ask for gentle sedation before receiving any numbing shots or work if needed.
Patients often worry they are being rude or demanding by asking for these little “extras,” but they are not! Rather, they are being pro-active. In fact, they are helping make the dentist’s job easier1 So please, ask away!
6. Establish a dental home.
If you trust your dentist, your dental fears will decrease. Thus, establishing a dental home is one of the best ways to overcome your dental fears. Establishing a dental home means much more than simply finding a dentist you like. Indeed, it involves finding a dental practice you fully trust. Most fearful dental patients need to see the same dentist and same hygienist every visit to help their anxiety. Likewise, they like to know the front office team members who can answer their billing and scheduling concerns. Moreover, a dental home becomes a place where you feel comfortable calling in between checkups with concerns about your oral health. In short, you want to develop a comfortable, trusting relationship with a dental team.
If you’re looking for the best dentist to help you overcome your dental anxiety, here’s what to look for.
Since dentists are people, too, we all come with different strengths and weaknesses. Of course, you need to make sure your dentist is qualified to do the type of restorative or cosmetic dental work you need. But beyond that, we’ve listed some great signs you’ve found the best dentist to help calm your fears:
They welcome questions.
Sensory comforts, not just sedation options, are available to help make you comfortable.
The office is friendly and welcoming as a whole.
They offer treatment options, not ultimatums.
Their online reviews show a solid history of compassionate care.
Whether you’re a true dentophobe or just a little anxious, the Stow-Munroe Falls dental office of Dr. Bartels and Dr. Michael Evan welcome your call.
Whether it has been 6 months or 6 years since your last dental visit, don’t let dental fear keep you from reaching out. We promise a judgment-free zone. Our goal is to help you reclaim your oral health.
Call us today at (330) 688-4942 to schedule an office tour. With our morning and evening hours, you can minimize lost time at school or work. We are conveniently located on Darrow Road, also known as Route 91 in Hudson, near Adel Durbin Park in Stow, Ohio. Thus, we’re an easy drive for families living in Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge, Stow, and Hudson.