I Am Afraid of Going to the Dentist . . . What Can I Do?

First of all, understand that you are not alone!  Dental fears and phobias affect millions of Americans.  Many of these stem from bad experiences in childhood or just a general fear of the pain that many people assume accompanies a dental visit.

The most important thing to understand is that there are ways to address fear of the dentist, and you should explore them so that you do not end up neglecting important dental health issues.

Do Build a Relationship with a Dentist that You Trust

Nothing is worse for dental fear or anxiety than dentist hopping is.  That adds an element of the unknown to every single visit.  The flipside is seeing the same dentist and dental team at every visit.  This builds trust, comfort and confidence in the care you are receiving.  Once you experience the consistency of multiple visits in the same office, there is less “unknown” to fear.

If you do not currently see a dentist, ask your friends and family members if they see a dentist that they have a long, trusting relationship with.  Better yet, ask for someone to recommend a dentist that he or she knows on a personal basis.  Remember, dentists are regular people, too.  They coach their kids’ baseball teams, teach Sunday School, hire workers for their homes, etc . . .  When you get to know a dentist on a personal basis, or know someone who already has that relationship, the trust-building process is accelerated.

Do Search the Online Reviews

Reviews can be very insightful into the experiences that other patients have with a dentist.  When you see an average high rating on Yelp, Google, or Facebook and read a general trend of great experiences shared by the majority of reviewers, you can trust that this dentist provides consistent, compassionate dental care.

It is likely that you will find some reviews describing a person whose fear of the dentist kept them away for a long time, and now they are a loyal patient with consistent dental visits.  Again, remember that you are not alone.  If others have overcome their fears and anxieties with this dentist, there is a great chance that you will, too!

Do Seek a Dentist who Offers Sedation

When it comes to following through with dental treatment, for patients with severe anxiety, this can be difficult even with a dentist they trust.  This is when you should consider sedation.  Sedation is an additional treatment option that allows patients who are anxious or afraid to “sleep” through their dental treatment.  There are various levels of sedation that work well for various levels of anxiety and fear.

Dentists who are certified to sedate their patients complete a higher level of training and maintain strict requirements for safety during these procedures.  Many people are familiar with the use of IV sedation for the extraction of wisdom teeth.  What most do not realize is that this same sedation is available for other dental treatments.

Sedation prevents you from experiencing anything negative during the procedure because you are blissfully unaware of your surroundings.  This is a wonderful options for patients who are afraid of dental treatment.

Do NOT Wait until Something Hurts

The most common problem with see with patients who have extreme dental fear is that they do not seek dental care until they have a major dental problem.  By waiting until something hurts or swells or both, you are placing yourself at an extremely high risk for pain and a negative dental experience.  The urgency of the situation may prevent your ability to undergo sedation and the presence of a serious infection can affect the ability of the local anesthetic to make everything completely numb.

The best tactic for someone who is afraid of the potential for negative dental experiences is to keep up with consistent preventive dental care.  By seeing the dentist and dental hygienists regularly, you actually decrease your risk for needing any dental work at all.  It is possible for you to only see your dentist every six months for a check-up and a high five.

More Questions about Addressing Dental Fear?

Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will take the time to understand your concerns and address them in a way that allows you to receive the dental care you need and keep your mouth healthy!

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