More than half of us have anxiety about visiting the dentist, some studies suggest. There’s literally an article titled “So Many People Are Afraid Of Going To The Dentist, Psychologists Don’t Know What To Do About It.” Some reasons for this fear make sense... like the natural instinct to not want objects inside one of the most vulnerable parts of our body. But, having bated breath before the dentist can also come from other sources. Either way, there are some easy ways to cope with this anxiety.
Why we’re afraid of the dentist
Our mouth is an air passageway, and we kind of need air to live. So, it’s kind of natural to be weary of having sharp objects (although controlled by a highly-trained professional who has completed hundreds of similar procedures) in your mouth. But, fear of the dentist can also come from other sources. For example, you could blame your mom — because fear can be inherited from your parents — or the media, which gives dentists a hard time for being scary and even narcissistic. Remember Steve Martin’s character in Little Shop Of Horrors?
One of the main reasons many of us are afraid of the dentist is kind of counter-intuitive: We’re scared of what the dentist may find, and needing additional procedures. Ultimately, putting off dental visits could result in more severe dental problems down the road. Visiting the dentist regularly is one of the best ways to avoid the more intense dental work.
How to cope with dental anxiety
Say You’re Anxious
Before your hygienist starts cleaning your teeth or your dentist starts poking around in your mouth, quip Registered Dental Hygienist Elisa Brittain says you should be open with them about your fear.
“It’s better to know if someone is scared or anxious, because then I can explain what I’m doing and what to expect in your dental appointment, so there are no surprises,” says Brittain.
Dentists and hygienists learn how to comfort more anxious patients in dental and hygiene school, and you should let them use what they learned to make you feel better.
Read Good Reviews
If you’re going to a dental office for the first time, or even if you’ve been before and need to be reassured, it’s always a good idea to read good reviews. Better yet, you can ask them if they’re a quip verified dentist, which means they’re in our network of trusted dental professionals.
Think: It’s No Big Deal. Because It Isn’t
A common coping mechanism for people with a fear of flying is simply recognizing that pilots fly planes every day and that there are thousands of flights around the world every day. For dental professionals, this is something they’ve done many times and continue to do every day.
Frequent Visits = Less Intense Procedures
As we already mentioned, some people are scared of the dentist because they’re scared of finding something wrong with their teeth. That’s counterintuitive, as people who put off dental visits will have more issues with their teeth, and will require more intense care once they actually do visit the dentist. If you visit the dentist every six months and brush properly twice every day, you’ll likely not need any additional care beyond a cleaning.
Drown Out The Drill
Ask your dental professional if it’s okay to pop in some earbuds and put on a podcast, or even a calming Spotify playlist.
Positive reinforcement doesn’t just work for dogs, it can work for yourself too. It’s always good to plan something fun right after a dental visit, like a facial, manicure or a big ol’ burrito dinner (but be sure to wait to eat if your dental pro tells you to!).
Although these coping mechanisms may not be sure-fire, they should ease your mind and help you to stop gritting your teeth in the waiting room.