Anxiety is not a bad thing. It’s a speculative thing. It helps us predict the future, and control it. Without anxiety, humans could not have evolved. Winter and lions and —insert your favorite harsh natural occurrence here—would have wiped us out. But now that we have those things mostly under control, our mind finds other things to worry about. Enter dental phobia.
The key to controlling this not uncommon fear is to identify what your mind perceives the threat to be. Here are the four basic types and what you can do about it.
A normal teeth cleaning session shouldn’t yield much pain, but if you have sensitive or problematic teeth that may not be the case. Avoiding the dentist though is just going to make matters worse, so consider the following pain reducing options:
- Anesthetics—The injection of the needle will hurt, but after that you won’t feel a thing. The anesthetic typically last more than an hour, so you won’t even have to get needled twice.
- Laughing gas—Nitrous oxide is the technical term, laughing gas is the pretty accurate term. You will feel giggly and although you’ll feel a prick here and there, they just don’t seem to matter so much.
- Sedation—Some folks just can’t get past the novocaine needle and they need something more powerful than the gas. In this case, your dentist may offer sedation. You’ll need to plan ahead for this because your dentist, among other things, will need to confirm you have a designated driver to take you home.
Not all mouths were created equal. And the same goes for dentists, and dental hygienists. If you had a negative experience with a dental office, you should consider switching. It’s your right to interview and research your dental office before committing to an appointment. Check for reviews online and pop into the office beforehand to get a feel for the staff. Office ambience and a friendly face up front can speak volumes.
Most important, let the staff know what went wrong at your last dental office. It may even have been something non-medical, like miscommunication over costs, insurance, or waiting time. Your new office stands a far better chance of becoming your forever dentist if you speak your mind early and often.
Even when you have good insurance, the cost of a dental procedure can weigh on your mind. This is especially true when you don’t know what that cost is. You should feel empowered to not accept any level of dental treatment until you know if it’s covered by your insurance. And if it’s not you should know the cost.
Remember, even with insurance, you may owe a certain out-of-pocket expense. Find out as much as you can from your insurance provider before your appointment, but never hesitate to double check pricing when at the dentist’s office.
Sometimes, you can even find low-cost dental alternatives. For example, if you don’t have dental insurance and you live near a dentistry school, you could get your cleanings done there at low or no cost. And if there’s some extra work that needs to be done after that, you can go to a fully trained dentist later.
Lay back, open your mouth, and let someone put a sharp object in your mouth or an object that makes a weird noise … Feel comfy yet? Probably not. So sometimes a fear of going to the dentist isn’t about physical or financial pain, but instead it’s about a lack of control.
In situations like this, sometimes having the dentist play relaxing music is all one needs to relax enough. Some dentists also have televisions playing above head to give patients something else to focus on. In any case, let the staff know about your apprehensiveness and chances are they’ll have something they can offer you to make the process go more smoothly.
Your dental professionals want the best for you, so chances are they’ve always stressed how you can take better care of your dental health. If your dental health is less than stellar, perhaps you feel you’ve let them down. “Can they tell I don’t floss enough?” “Does my breath stink?” “Are my teeth the ugliest they’ve seen this week?”
These are some of the thoughts so many people have going through their mind pre-appointment and mid-appointment. All we can say is “Relax.” We are here to support your dental health not be judgy about it. You’re the one who gets to judge us!
See you in the chair.