Fear Of The Dentist

Odontophobia:  Fear of the Dentistkramer at the dentist image

Many people (including myself) avoid going to the dentist for as long as possible.  Let’s face it, its not exactly a pleasant experience most of the time.  Whether you’re getting a filling placed in a tooth or just your plaque scraped by that wicked little steel ‘pick’ its usually not fun.

When fear of the dentist becomes problematic is when it becomes a true phobia making it very difficult for you to go at all.  Dental fear has several names including:

  • odontophobia
  • dental phobia
  • dentophobia
  • dentist phobia
  • dental anxiety

I think the comedy show Seinfeld even coined the term “anti-dentite”.

Dental fear in various degrees affects as many as 75% of adults in the US alone.  This results in many people only going to the dentist when they have a dental emergency such as a toothache or dental abscess.

Signs And Symptoms Of Dental Fear

Some of the signs of dental phobia include:

  • Feelings of tension and fear leading to insomnia the night before your dental exam.
  • Fear, anxiety, or even panic attacks while you’re in the waiting room.
  • You use avoidance behavior or become upset at even the thought of having to go to the dentist.
  • The sight or sound of dental instruments, or of dental personnel in the office, increases your anxiety.
  • Thinking of a dental visit makes you feel physically sick.
  • You panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental appointment.

So what can you do to avoid this fear and get yourself in that rather awkward looking chair again?

Here are eleven tips to cope with your dental fears:

  1. Select a dentist that you like and be as friendly as possible to everyone in the office
  2. Understand going in that stress and anxiety prior to a dental visit is perfectly normal
  3. Start with a simple cleaning procedure and check up before anything more complicated
  4. Bring a good book or something you really enjoy reading of listening to while you wait
  5. Request sedation.  It will really help relax you and it comes in the form of ‘laughing gas’.  Sounds pretty good huh?
  6. Remind yourself you’ve survived every other visit to the dentist before
  7. Take deep slow breaths in the waiting room before you go in
  8. Bring some music with you (iPod or whatever).  Most dentists are fine with this
  9. Tell your dentist in advance about your dental anxiety.  He or she has dealt with this many times before and can help you cope
  10. If you start having a panic attack during a procedure ask your doctor if you can step out for a moment to regain your composure.  This is awkward but sometimes necessary
  11. Take yourself out for a ‘treat’ after you’re done.  Go shopping or have a nice meal.  (Assuming you can both chew and taste with your now numb mouth)

Remember to relax.  Its only the dentist; it’s not the end of the world.  Keep your fears in check and realize that you are going to walk out a little sore but just fine!



image – dentaltoons.com