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Dental Anxiety: What is it and how to cope?

Posted Mar 25 2011 9:53pm

We hear on a daily basis, “I hate going to the dentist”. Many patients do not enjoy their visit to the dentist for various reasons. In order to overcome dental fear there are several steps you can take to ensure that your visit to the dentist is as comfortable as possible.

 

Identifying Your Fears

The first step in making your visit comfortable is to try to  identify  what it is that is making you fearful. There is a difference between having anxiety and a true phobia. Patients with anxiety have reactions to unknown stimuli. Patients with a fear or phobia are able to identify a particular stimulus that triggers their reaction. There are several reasons why a patient may be fearful of their dental visit:

  • previous negative or painful experience

  • feeling of helplessness or claustrophobia

  • sense of embarrassment about the condition of their teeth

  • particular smells, sights or sounds

  • scary anecdotes from family or friends

 

Finding the Right Dentist

Many people find a dentist through word of mouth, Google search or perhaps a trusted dental directory. This is a good first step but further research needs to be done. Once you find a dentist you are interested in, you need to take the time to  find out about how their practice is run  and if they are the right fit for you. Below are some questions to ask the dental office before actually making an appointment:

  • How does the dentist handle anxious patients?

  • Does the exam room have any distracting entertainment, such as an iPod or TV?

  • Will the dentist talk me through the procedure so I know what’s going on?

  • Do you offer complimentary consultations so that I can see the office and meet the dentist prior to an exam?

  • For more severe dental anxiety, ask what types of sedation the dentist offers.

 

Preparing for Your Dental Appointment

Call or visit several offices before deciding to give one a try. Most are more than happy to give you an  office tour. Ask yourself if the office staff made you feel comfortable and answered all your questions to the best of their ability. If the office staff doesn’t make you feel comfortable and respond with understanding, it could be a rocky start to your first visit.

 

Appointment Time: You Are in Control

There are several relaxation techniques and tools that you can utilize to help you maintain your comfort during dental visits. Many patients prefer a  distraction  during their visit such as listening to an ipod filled with their favorite music.  Relaxation breathing  or  progressive muscle relaxation  are techniques you may wish to try prior to beginning. You may ask your dentist to explain the procedure to you in detail and show you the instruments he or she is going to use or ask that they do not show you any instruments if you prefer. A  signaling system  is always useful if you feel you need a break. For most patients, being able to raise their hand and asking the dentist to stop is comforting and allows them to feel more in control of the situation.

The most important part of overcoming dental fear is trust. Finding a dentist you are comfortable with and feel that you can trust will make the most difference in helping you relax during your visit.

 

Dr. Kristy Gretzula DDS is an NYU qualified dentist in Stratford CT who specializes in teeth implants, braces and cosmetic dentistry.  

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