Dental Phobia: 7 Common Fears & How To Conquer Them

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For some, a trip to your dentist or endodontist is a routine that doesn’t cause anxiety. But for many people with some degree of dental phobia — technically called dentophobia or odontophobia — it’s the worst experience in the world.

For endodontists, since we specialize in root canals, we see dental phobia on a daily basis. Our staff is highly trained in explaining every aspect of your procedure BEFORE it’s conducted, we keep TVs in every exam room that follow you as your procedure is done, headphones to listen to music and cancel out noise, and we are transparent about what is happening – keeping you calm and relaxed. We’ve even had people fall asleep during our root canals! 

People with dental phobias have a reflex to feel a fight-or-flight response when they visit the dentist. Phobias can be a result of a multitude of things, including having a previous traumatic experience at the dentist (maybe a previous anesthetization wasn’t done properly), feeling extreme discomfort while having a dental procedure done (maybe the person has trouble breathing while having work done), and having an accident where maybe a person needed stitches in or near the mouth, imprinting that scary moment in memory.

Some people don’t visit the dentist for years because they are so afraid of coming in. For some people, this just reinforces their negative view of the dentist – because they hadn’t been in for their regular checkups, their teeth are in bad shape, just making the dental work they have to have done more extensive.

Here are some common things that people are afraid of during a dental visit, and what you and the dentist can do to help soothe those fears:

1. Fear Of The Unknown

Most people fear what they do not understand. It’s important to have your dentist or endodontist explain what is happening and why it is happening. It helps to sit with the dentist in the office, with the door open so there’s no feeling of claustrophobia, just to talk. People with milder dental phobia will relieve some fear if they meet their dentist first. While not all dentists or endodontists may not have the luxury of time to be able to do this, it’s worth asking a dentist before scheduling an appointment if you think it will help you feel more at ease.

2. Fear Of The Dental Equipment

Sometimes, the scariest part of the dental visit is having those strange, sharp, metal tools stuck into your mouth. What can help ease this fear is to ask to hold the tools first, just so they don’t seem so foreign.

3. Sensitive Gag Reflex

People with a sensitive gag reflex may loathe the part of the dentist’s visit where those tabs are put in the mouth for the dental X-ray. These days, newer dentist offices offer panoramic X-rays.

4. The Dentist Seems Ominous

Find a dentist or endodontist with a sense of humor! A study published in the European Journal of Oral Science showed that empathy and humor are big factors in reducing dental fear. “Psychological barriers can be broken down by humor, both as a result of the patient and the dentist coming together more as equals, and as a result of humor reducing stress, increasing well-being and creating a pleasant atmosphere,” study researcher Jenny Bernson, of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, said in a statement.

5. Fear Of Loud Noises

Those dental tools can be really loud, and the noise can stir up fear in some people. We recommend using our earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out the sound!

6. Feeling Uncomfortable Lying Back In A Dentist’s Chair

Some people may be uncomfortable with something as simple as lying back in the dentist’s chair, due to a bad back or some control issues. A simple remedy may be for the dentist to only put the patient half-back so that it’s more comfortable. Or, a dentist could provide positioning pillows for people who feel aches and pains for being in a laid-back position.

7. Unable To Breathe Through The Nose

Are you a mouth-breather, who feels like you’re being stifled if you can only breathe through your nose? That could be an issue at a dentist visit, where the dentist must work in the mouth, which can make mouth-breathing hard. You could use nasal strips to help breathe through your nose.
There you have it! 7 fears and easy ways to cope. If you’d like to learn more about our office and accommodations we can make to reduce fear, give us a call at (704) 541-7017!

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