One of the first things people see when meeting someone is his or her smile. The whiter the teeth, the straighter the grin, and the fresher the breath, the better. It’s a confidence-booster to have a strong, healthy smile, and the gums and teeth that make that possible, but only half of adults make it a point to stick to regularly scheduled dental checkups each year. Part of that has to do with the inherent fear of visiting a dentist’s office, even if it is simply for preventative care.
Researchers across the globe have conducted studies in an effort to pinpoint the reasons why the dentist conjures up so much fear and anxiety among adults. According to a law firm that works with dental negligence claims, 34% of individuals have an ongoing fear of visiting the dentist, whether for a cleaning or addressing a larger issue. Similarly, millions of adults in America fail to go to the dentist on an annual basis, despite citing a clear understanding of the importance of routine dental care. Avoiding the dentist may seem like a smart move when fear and anxiety levels are high, but in reality, it often leads to problems that can be a challenge to overcome without a dentist’s intervention. Understanding why a fear of the dentist is so prevalent is the first step in reducing the risk of major dental issues.
Ask anyone about their memories as a child, and most will cite a bad experience sitting in a dentist’s chair. The tools used decades ago left something to be desired by both dental practitioners and their patients, as they were large, noisy, and not all that easy to maneuver in the small space of the mouth. Despite a great deal of training dentists had then, plenty of young patients who are now adults remember being terrified of the tools used in dental cleanings, cavity fillings, and other routine procedures.
Today, dental tools are more compact and quieter, creating an environment that is far more conducive to performing dental care without error and discomfort. The best dentists also have ample training on how to deliver treatment or cleanings with a gentle touch which leads to fewer bumps along the way. If you have a fear of the size or noise of dental tools used, ask your provider to thoroughly explain what steps can be taken to reduce discomfort and anxiety prior to starting the procedure.
Not Knowing what to Expect
Another issue plaguing adults who need to visit the dentist is the overwhelming fear of the unknown. Just like doctor’s visits with a primary care physician may result in medical news one was not yet prepared for, dentists can and often do uncover issues that have been overlooked or neglected for years. When that is the case, patients are forced to undergo dental procedures to correct the issue before it has the opportunity to progress even further. Not knowing what may come in terms of dental conditions keeps people away from the dentist’s office indefinitely.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to dealing with the fear of the unknown. Biting the proverbial bullet and scheduling an exam, thorough cleaning, and other small fixes each and every year helps keep major dental issues at bay. In most cases, early detection of common problems like cavities, deteriorating enamel, or gum sensitivity helps prevent the need for major dental surgery or other invasive procedures in the future.
Many people have a fear of experiencing pain, and most assume that is what they will experience every time they visit their dentist’s office. Some dental procedures and treatments can be intense, causing days of discomfort in the jaw or the gums long after the visit has ended. Others may experience nerve sensitivity after a dental visit which makes it hard to eat, drink, or relax easily. A common train of thought is that the pain associated with a dental visit isn’t worth the treatment performed.
For those who have a fear of discomfort, talk openly about that anxiety with the dental provider or staff member. There are a handful of ways pain can be reduced not only during the procedure but after it is completed as well. Proper anesthesia and pain management suggestions post-treatment can help alleviate pain associated with common dental treatments, but patients have the responsibility to ask before getting started.
The best thing individuals can do to overcome the fear of the dentist is to understand how to reduce the potentially negative outcomes that could take place during or after the visit. That starts with knowing how dentistry has changed in recent years, including the tools and techniques used, followed by getting ahead of major issues by scheduling and attending routine dental checkups. Finally, consider solutions for pain management before taking a seat in the dentist’s chair.