Approximately fifteen percent of the population in the United States suffers from dentist anxiety, also called dental phobia. It is not a made up phobia but as with other phobias, it is actually based on irrational fears but there are ways to overcome this phobia. For some, this phobia is debilitating. It can cause people to skip dental checkups or even not go to the dentist at all.
Causes of dentist anxiety
• Prior experience-if you have had a painful dental visit or you have gone with someone to the dentist that had a painful experience it could cause you to develop this phobia during future visits. The actual procedure was not painful but it could have been due to the insensitivity to your anxiety that aggravated it.
• Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or anxiety disorder-there are some that suffer from PTSD or general anxiety disorder and having dentist phobia is just one of their many fears they suffer from.
• Abusive history-if someone has a history of being a victim of emotional or sexual abuse they may associate similar fears with they are under the care of an authority figure, like the dentist. Even though there is no incidents of abuse the dentist may appear abusive to them, especially if it is a stern dentist.
Ways to overcome dentist anxiety
• Choose your dentist-look for a dentist that will accept your anxiety. Do not just go to a dental clinic or pick a dentist out of the phone book. You can also ask family and friends if they know a compassionate dentist. Since dental phobia affects many people there are dentists that specialize in treating those with this problem. Make your first visit a brief appointment so you can get to know the dentist and let them know of your dentist anxiety. If the dentist seems to brush off your anxiety or does not seem to care, look for another dentist.
• Using sedation-if you are unable to sit without fearing the worst the dentist may prescribe or suggest sedation. This can be oral, inhalation, or intravenous (IV) sedation before any treatment. It will help to relieve your anxiety and you will be conscious while the treatment is done. You may have to bring someone along to drive you home as you may be advised not to drive for a few hours to give the sedation time to wear off.
• General anesthesia-there are cases where dentist anxiety is severe or with young children, this may be used for difficult dental procedures such as a root canal or tooth extraction. It has to be done under extreme caution and is often used as a last resort of sedation is not working.