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Fear of the dentist? Tips to overcome dental anxiety!

Fear of the dentist? Tips to overcome dental anxiety!

Created: February 15, 2023 | Updated: January 15, 2024

Dental anxiety is a common problem that can lead to avoidance of important dental care. Instead of worrying about dental anxiety, it is essential to take action and discover ways to overcome it. At Fleeck, we understand the challenges of dental anxiety and want to help you overcome that barrier.

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety, also known as dentophobia, is a deep-seated psychological condition in which a person experiences overwhelming fear in relation to dental treatments. This fear can be so intense that even simply calling for an appointment is perceived as a terrifying task. It is crucial to understand that dental anxiety is not an uncommon phenomenon and that many struggle with this barrier that keeps them from getting essential dental care.

Causes of dental phobia

A phobia of the dentist can have several causes 1, including past bad experiences, fear of pain or concerns about the cost of treatments. It is important to recognise that these fears are legitimate and that there are ways to deal with them.

Several factors can contribute to the development of dental anxiety, including:

  1. Poor past experiences: Negative experiences during previous dental treatments can cause deep anxiety and reluctance.
  2. Anxiety about pain: The fear of potential pain during dental procedures can be a powerful driver behind dental anxiety.
  3. Cost concerns: Financial concerns related to dental treatments can cause anxiety, leading to avoidance behaviour.
  4. Loss of control: Some people experience dental anxiety due to a sense of loss of control during treatments.
  5. Uncertainty and fear of the unknown: Uncertainty about what will happen during a dental appointment can contribute to anxiety.
  6. Fear of judgement: Fear of judgement about the current state of one’s teeth can also contribute to dental anxiety.

Symptoms of dental anxiety

People with dental anxiety may exhibit many symptoms of anxiety such as:

Dental anxiety is a complex condition that can manifest itself in different ways. Here are more extensive details about symptoms that people with dental anxiety may experience:

  1. Panic attacks: Intense bouts of sudden anxiety, which can lead to a feeling of uncontrollable fear and physical reactions such as rapid breathing.
  2. Nausea: Dental anxiety can be accompanied by a feeling of nausea, sometimes even at the thought of a dental appointment.
  3. Sweating: Excessive sweating is a common symptom of anxiety and can also occur in people with dental anxiety, even before treatment begins.
  4. An accelerated heart rate: An accelerated heart rate is a physical response to anxiety. People with dental anxiety may experience an increased heart rate even when entering a dental office.
  5. Trembling: Trembling or trembling, especially in the hands or whole body, is a reaction to the stress that dental anxiety can cause.
  6. Hyperventilation: Rapid and shallow breathing, known as hyperventilation, can occur in people with dental anxiety due to fear and stress.
  7. Dizziness: Dizziness can occur, possibly due to the combination of anxiety and physical reactions such as rapid breathing.
  8. High blood pressure: Anxiety can lead to a temporary rise in blood pressure.

Recognising these causes is the first step towards understanding and addressing dental anxiety. It is essential to know that these fears are valid and that there are various approaches to dealing with them.

Tips for dealing with dental anxiety

  1. Open communication with your (fear) dentist: Discuss your fears and concerns with our specially trained dentists. They will adjust the treatment to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
  2. Distraction techniques: Listen to music or hold a stress ball to distract your thoughts during treatment. Sometimes we can even play a calming film.
  3. Breathing exercises: Control your breathing to lower your heart rate and become calmer during treatment.
  4. Extension techniques: Try progressive muscle relaxation or meditation to reduce your physical and mental tension.
  5. Professional help: If anxiety is hindering you and you are avoiding the dentist, consider talking to a psychologist to understand and control the anxiety.

Choose a dedicated anxiety dentist

An “anxiety dentist” is a dentist who specialises in treating people with dental anxiety. They have training and experience to provide a supportive environment, improve communication and adjust treatments to reduce the patient’s anxiety. The goal is to make the dental experience more positive so that people with anxiety can still receive the care they need. It is important to communicate openly about any concerns or fears with the dentist.

Preventive dental care when you are afraid of the dentist

Preventive dental care is crucial even if you have a fear of the dentist. Regular checkups and brushing your teeth properly at home can help detect and treat problems early. This prevents serious dental procedures and contributes to your overall health.

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Related Trusted Sources

  • 1. Beaton L, Freeman R, Humphris G. Why are people afraid of the dentist? Observations and explanations. Med Princ Pract. 2014;23(4):295-301. doi: 10.1159/000357223. Epub 2013 Dec 20. PMID: 24356305; PMCID: PMC5586885.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586885/

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Frequently asked questions

It is important to remember that there are many options to help you overcome this fear. Discuss your fears with your dentist, try relaxation techniques and seek professional help from a psychologist or therapist if needed.

Dental anxiety can have a variety of causes. Things that may have created your anxiety include: negative experiences, fear of pain, loss of control, fear of unfamiliar treatments and sounds, embarrassment about oral health and more.

Dental anxiety, also known as dentophobia, is a deep-seated psychological condition in which a person experiences overwhelming fear in relation to dental treatments.

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The American Dental Association (ADA) is a professional organisation dedicated to promoting oral health and improving the quality of dental care in the United States.

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