If you asked a sample of people to name their top ten fears, what ones would pop up over and over again? Public speaking, spiders, heights…and dentists. Dental phobia is extremely common, but it’s a dangerous fear to hold onto. Studies show that people with dental phobias or anxiety have worse oral health than people with a healthy view of the dentist. They’re also much more likely to have destroyed teeth, a condition that requires extensive intervention to fix. If you want to keep your teeth healthy well into your sunset years, it’s time to face your fear of the scary dentist.
Read on for five of the most common reasons people avoid dental appointments and how to overcome them.
1. The “Scary Dentist” Trope
The idea of terrifying dentist visits is one of the most consistent media tropes around. Beloved films ranging from Little Shop of Horrors to Finding Nemo paint dental professionals in a horrific light. At the same time, musicians like Al Yankovic and Owl City croon about “dental malaise”.
This one-sided view of dentists stems from the days before modern dental tools, pain medicine, and numbing agents. Unfortunately, kids pick up on the anxiety early on. Whether it’s due to the media or their parents’ own fears, it’s something that can stick for life.
If you’re afraid of the idea of the dentist, take a moment to examine where that fear is coming from. Does it come from a poor experience you had once? Or is it more a case of general uncertainty and unease?
If the latter is true, it might help to call and talk to your dentist ahead of time about your fears. Ask them to go over exactly what your appointment will involve. If the environment of a dental office is what scares you, ask to visit for an in-person consultation before your first cleaning.
Once the uncertainty is removed, you’ll see that a real dentist is nothing like the media version.
2. The Sounds of Drills
The sound of a dental drill is enough to send many people running for the hills. Without being able to see what’s going on, it’s normal to be nervous when someone puts a drill in your mouth.
Even if you aren’t getting a cavity filled, you’ll still be around other noisy dental equipment like electric toothbrushes and suction tubes. To block out the sound, try bringing a set of earbuds and listening to your favorite calming music during the appointment. Just be sure to let your dental team know ahead of time so they can get your attention if they need to ask a question during treatment.
3. Phobia of Pain
None of us want to experience pain. If a pain phobia is keeping you out of the dental chair, though, you may be setting yourself up for more hurt long-term.
There are a few strategies you can take to get over your fear of dental pain. First, ask your dentist if it’s okay to take an over-the-counter pain reliever before your visit. This can help keep away any minor soreness and discomfort.
If you’re getting a cavity filled or having another small procedure done, your dentist will numb the area so you don’t feel a thing. For major oral surgery, they may give you the option of sedation or general anesthesia.
4. Embarrassment or Shame
If you’re too embarrassed to go to the dentist because you haven’t taken care of your teeth in the past, you aren’t alone. One study surveyed 30 adults, each of whom had been avoiding the dentist for an average of 12.7 years. Of the 30, a whopping majority of 27 cited embarrassment as part of the reason they didn’t seek treatment.
But if you’re embarrassed about the state of your smile, why avoid seeing the one professional who can help? As it turns out, many people are afraid of being judged for the state of their teeth. This is especially true for those who already struggle with social anxiety or poor self-image.
Dentists are trained professionals, and their main goal is to keep your teeth in tip-top shape—no matter the starting point. If you’re afraid of judgment, express your concern to the dental team ahead of time. You can establish a strategy for them to give you helpful feedback about keeping your teeth healthy in the future without feeling ashamed of the state they’re in now.
5. Fear of the Bill
Those who aren’t embarrassed or afraid of a dental visit itself might be facing another fear: the fear of not being able to afford treatment. Many people don’t have dental insurance, and even those that do will find that some treatments aren’t covered. With the average cost of medical treatment in the United States being so high, it’s natural to be afraid of ending up with a huge bill.
Unfortunately, putting off your twice-annual cleanings and ignoring cavities will cause a lot more harm in the long run. Even though you may have avoided some short-term costs, you’ll face the price of emergency oral surgery or a full set of dentures in the future. When you consider the overall price, taking care of your teeth before they get worse is a much more cost-effective option.
If the fear of not being able to afford treatment is holding you back, call your dentist and talk to them about your concerns. If you do have dental insurance, make sure the practice accepts it and take advantage of everything it covers.
Even if you’re uninsured, though, many dental practices offer a payment plan or discounted price to make sure you can afford treatment. At Fermilia Dental, we offer three membership options that help you spread out the cost of treatment and keep it affordable. Whether you’re a child, adult, or are fighting gum disease, we’ll work with you to get all the care you need without breaking the bank.
Facing Your Fear of the Dentist
In the old days before pain medicine and modern dental equipment, the “scary dentist” trope may have been well-deserved. Even so, visiting your dentist today is nothing to be afraid of. Your health and comfort are their priorities, so it’s time to let go of the anxiety you’re holding onto and take care of your teeth.
If you’re looking for a dentist in Lakewood to help you overcome your fears, look no further than the compassionate professionals at Fermilia Dental. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and we’ll walk you through exactly what to expect so you’re comfortable with your dental treatment.