Do you suffer from dentist phobia? It’s nothing to be embarrassed about—millions put off their check-ups and panic at the thought of sitting in that chair—but it’s still a fear we have to overcome. Going to the dentist is just as important as seeing a doctor. It’s also easier to keep teeth healthy and correct minor problems than wait until they’ve worsened to the point of requiring dental surgery. (Surgery? Oh no—can you feel the panic already?)
Here are some ways of facing dentist phobia, understanding it, and even begin to conquer it. While you may always get a few flutters in the stomach when you have a check-up, at least you won’t be shaking in dread. And at least you’ll have the courage to show up at all. Now that’s something to smile about.
1. Are you embarrassed to show your teeth?
Many people avoid going to the dentist because they’re ashamed to show their teeth. They feel bad about the cavities, they’re scared of being lectured, and they worry that the dentist is snickering or recoiling in disgust at what could possibly be the worst teeth they’ve ever seen.
But think about it. You’re ashamed to have your teeth checked, so the problem gets worse, and the worse it gets, the more ashamed you feel. It’s a vicious cycle. But you really have nothing to be ashamed about. Dentists have seen far, far worse cases—and their years in school have prepared them for all scenarios. You think they look at perfect smiles the whole day? (If they did, they’d be out of a job, wouldn’t they?)
Nor will your dentist judge you or your character just from looking at your teeth. Like most professionals, they are very clinical and objective once they start working. And with several patients to see in one day, they don’t have time to sit around and think about you.
2. Are you afraid of losing control?
Admittedly, sitting down in that dentist’s chair with your head tilted and your mouth open can make you feel very, very vulnerable. You have no idea what’s going to happen. You see all shorts of sharp objects, any of which could be used as a lethal weapon, and in your position you can’t even ‘see what’s coming.’
This could be one reason why people are more afraid going to the dentist than going to the doctor. Stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors seem very benign and harmless, and you and your doctor are just sitting across each other, talking over a table as you would at the office or at home.
It may help to ask your dentist to explain what he’s going to do, to show you the instruments that he will use, and what will happen during the procedure. And you can also choose a dentist who you’re comfortable with. At the initial appointment, explain your fear and see whether or not he understands and is willing to ‘walk you through’ it. If he doesn’t, then you’re still in control—you can find another dentist.
3. Are you afraid of the pain?
A lot of people have been traumatized by a particularly painful dental procedure. However, thanks to the advancement of technology, there are a number of tools and techniques that can help minimize or even eliminate the pain. Plus, a lot of is it has to do with the skill of the dentist.
If you’ve had a really painful procedure, you may have had the misfortune of having an idiot for a dentist. Maybe he started the procedure before the novocaine took effect, or he injected it in the wrong place. Maybe he wasn’t sensitive to your needs, and didn’t stop when you told him to.
So the solution isn’t to avoid all dentists but to find a better one. Ask your friends, co-workers or neighbors who they visit and what their experience is. Or you may even see a pediatric dentist, who generally have the demeanor and the patience. They’re used to dealing with frightened kids, after all. If he doesn’t become your dentist, he may refer you to a colleague who can handle your concerns.
4. Are you ashamed of being so afraid?
Don’t be! You’re not the only one…and you’re not alone. One way to overcome dental phobia is to talk to other people. There are online support groups where you can safely share your feelings with those who understand you and have probably gone through exactly the same thing! Some of them may have conquered their phobia and can inspire you to go out there and book your first appointment. If they did it, so can you.