It’s no question that oral health is essential to overall wellness. When your teeth aren’t aching and you can beam with pride, showing off your pearly whites, you feel better. Despite this, plenty of Americans still fail to visit their dentists even once every year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old haven’t visited a dentist in the past year. In a 2014 survey by the American Dental Association (ADA), 22.9 percent of respondents said they “definitely do not plan” to visit a dentist in the next 12 months at that time. Respondents cited a variety of reasons for forgoing dentist appointments, including the cost of dental care, needing to travel to a dental care provider, and feeling like they don’t need dental care at all.
But another primary reason people don’t go to the dentist as often as they should is dental anxiety.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is the feeling of distress in a dental setting, resulting in a person being scared to visit the dentist. This manifests differently from person to person, some experiencing a general feeling of unease to others feeling extremely fearful of the appointment. Because of this, they fail to get the dental care they need.
If you’re one of the millions of people suffering from dental anxiety, there are ways to overcome this terrible feeling and get the oral care you need. Below are some tips to cope or ease dental anxiety:
1. Determine the cause of your anxiety
The first step in dealing with your dental anxiety is knowing where the feeling stems from. Are you stressed because you’re placing control in the hands of your dentist? Is it because you’re afraid of perceived pain? When you figure out what’s causing your anxiety to spike when visiting a dentist, then you can address it properly.
2. Speak up
Anxiety of any kind can be eased when you talk to someone about it. Keeping it bottled up will only make it worse. When you feel anxiety creeping in, tell your dentist about it. The stress might be stemming from unanswered questions, which your dentist can provide answers to. Wondering if getting dental implants hurt or how long the effects of the anesthesia will last? Your dentist can enlighten you, which can help ease your anxiety. What’s more, if you tell them that you’re feeling anxious, they can help you cope either by giving you a break or talking you through the process.
3. Distract yourself
Taking your mind off the visit may help ease the anxiety you’re feeling. Dentists understand this since dental anxiety is so prevalent. This is why plenty of clinics have televisions on so patients can focus on what’s playing instead of the procedure. If that doesn’t distract you, maybe you can wear headphones and listen to an audiobook, podcast, or your favorite album. You can also perform mindfulness techniques, like focusing on easing the tension on different parts of your body. These techniques help your mind focus on things other than the dental procedure you’re undergoing.
Anxiety over dental visits shouldn’t stop you from taking care of your oral health. By finding a technique to banish anxiety that works for you, you can overcome your fear of dental visits and get the care you need.