Conquer Your Fear of the Dentist
Dental anxiety or fear of the dentist is a major stumbling block for many people. It usually
prevents otherwise intelligent, rational people from optimizing and maintaining their dental
The key to good oral health is prevention - stopping problems before they
arise. Unfortunately, people who suffer from dental anxiety often fail to visit the dentist for routine care.
When they finally do go, often a small preventable problem has turned into a problem which will require major
In my years of successfully treating dental phobics, I have used a number of techniques. Some even
involve the use of mild sedatives but most techniques involve face to face communication, answering of the
patient's questions, and a lot of listening.
Most dental phobics have had very negative experiences with either unskilled, uncaring, or
The most important step to overcoming dental anxiety is finding a good
dentist and you should always start with a list of dentists so that you have options. A good
dentist is one who:
- is patient
- is highly competent
- endeavors to make each meeting pain free
- genuinely cares about you
- has the ability to nurture you through past traumas.
Ask friends and family for a list of regional dentists that they would recommend. Of course you do not
want a list of atlanta dentists if you are in
pennsylvania. Feel free to ask any potential dentist about his practice, practice philosophy, and the steps he
or she takes to make dentistry pain free and anxiety free. Remember, do not be intimidated. You are the consumer
and it is the dentist who should be selling you on his or her service.
It takes a true partnership between the patient and the dentist, a growing trust, and a growing relationship
that cannot nor should not be pushed faster than the patient can accept.
In my practice, I have used this no pressure approach with great success. Usually the first appointment
is a 'get to know you visit' where we take a complete medical and dental history and have a discussion with the
I have found that by clearly explaining any planned procedures (what they are and why we plan to do them) and by
answering all of the patient's questions, much of the anxiety can be eliminated. If all goes well, we may do an
intraoral examination using a special camera that lets us see, on a monitor, the inside of the patient's mouth
The second visit includes discussion on what is the most stressful thing about dentistry for the patient
and ways we can reduce if not eliminate that stress. We perform an examination, take X-rays and develop a treatment
If the patient is ready for a cleaning of the teeth, we may proceed. The progress made in each visit is
controlled by the patient and their readiness to continue. No pressure at all.
During future visits, we following through with the necessary procedures. I have dozens of patients who
have been helped with this no pressure approach. A person can also reduce their anxiety by bringing a friend or
loved one along with them for support.
I often advise people not to schedule appointments during stressful times. Don't, for example, schedule an
appointment before a major business meeting or in the middle of the day if you know you have several tasks to do
after the appointment.
Also, during the procedure, I tell patients exactly what I am doing - when they are going to feel pressure and
when they are going to feel coldness. I use all the techniques available to minimize pain. In the few cases where
the patient will feel discomfort, I tell them. Surprisingly anxiety is reduced if a patient knows exactly what
I can not stress enough how important it is to find a dentist you can trust and who is
willing to do what it takes to relieve your anxiety.
Many dentists will use a technique known as guided imagery where they will tell you to think about
pleasant experiences (such as sunbathing on a beach in the Bahamas) while the procedure is going on.
Some dentists may go over relaxation techniques with you. Others will play soothing music in the background or
allow the patient to bring in a walkman and headphones. Some dentists even have virtual reality goggles which the
patient can wear during the procedure.
If your dentist is unwilling to discuss your anxiety or try things to help reduce your
anxiety it is time to get a new dentist.
Remember that an educated consumer is a less anxious consumer. Make sure your dentist explains each and every
procedure you undergo. Good dentists usually have videos, pamphlets, or books explaining the procedures they
perform. A good dentist will answer the questions you have thus lessening your anxiety.
With a good dentist-patient relationship and with good communication, dental anxiety can be overcome. You should
feel comfortable discussing your anxieties with your dentist and should be confident that he or she will do
everything possible to reduce your anxiety. If not find a new dentist who is willing to do what it takes to
overcome your anxiety.
For information on pain free dentistry visit our: Pain
Free Dentistry Article.