Being nervous about the dentist seems like a stereotype, but for many people, the fear is very real. If you feel fear and anxiety at the thought of even the simplest dental procedure, take heart. You are not the only nervous patient out there. Here’s how to find dentists for nervous patients who will address your concerns and use a compassionate and gentle treatment approach going forward.
Am I the only one afraid of going to the dentist?
Fear and anxiety surrounding the dentist is very common – you are not alone. Between ten and 15% of people in the U.S. cite fear as the reason they do not visit the dentist (regularly or at all).
One study found that the prevalence of dental anxiety was almost 60%. While many patients express mild concern or anxiety about their dental visits, some experience a full-blown phobia when it comes to dental care. They may realize that their fear is unreasonable or extreme, but in many cases that realization doesn’t help. The fear persists.
Common reasons people fear the dentist include:
- Fear of pain: This is most common for adult patients; 6% of patients cite this as their number one reason for avoiding the dentist
- Related phobias: A fear of needles or drills may cause patients to avoid all dental visits, even routine cleanings
- Feelings of being in a vulnerable position: Fear about loss of control is common, especially for those who have been in traumatic or abusive situations
- Negative experiences: Patients who have had previously bad experiences at the dentist may be less likely to return for any reason
- Embarrassment: The mouth is an intimate space, and some people are embarrassed about their dental health and hygiene
It’s important to overcome your fear: here’s why
No matter the reason, overcoming your dental phobia is about more than shiny white teeth – it can save your life and protect you in many other ways. Consider the following.
Minor dental problems can turn into major dental problems
Patients who avoid regular dental cleanings for any reason may miss an opportunity to catch small dental issues before they become serious.
A small cavity left untreated will grow, perhaps turning into periodontal disease or a dental abscess. This can lead to the need for more invasive dental procedures such as root canal or surgical extraction.
In a vicious cycle, the fear of these types of procedures is exacerbated when you skip your simple cleanings.
Dental phobia can cause serious health issues
Your overall health is impacted by your dental health. Many studies link poor dental health to an increased chance of different types of cancer.
Inflammation that occurs in conjunction with dental disease has also been linked to dementia, cardiovascular conditions, and fatal infections in the brain.
Lack of dental care affects your bottom line
Who better to explain this than an insurance company?
UnitedHealthcare looked at claims from over 130,000 patients between 18 and 65 and found that:
“individuals with chronic conditions who regularly received recommended dental care, cleanings, or periodontal treatment had medical claims that averaged nearly $1,500 lower annually than those with chronic conditions (asthma, diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, COPD, and kidney disease) who received non-preventive dental care or no dental care at all.”
Even for patients without other chronic conditions, regular cleanings help detect and treat oral health issues early, saving you money down the road. It’s pennywise but pound foolish to skip a cleaning to save money, only to need an expensive root canal later.
Dental anxiety feeds social anxiety
Approximately 52% of people who skipped regular dental visits report also avoiding social situations due to embarrassment about their teeth.
This anxiety can seep into everyday life, affecting sleep and relationships.
How to overcome dental anxiety
First, it is important to realize that dental phobias are deep-rooted and will take time to overcome. Be gentle with yourself as you take the