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Overcoming Dental Phobia


If the thought of going to the dentist terrifies you, you may have dental phobia. The good news is that this condition can be treated so that you can go to your next appointment with confidence and keep your teeth clean and healthy. Many people share these fears, and dental phobia can impact your psychological and physical health. You don’t have to panic every time you get a toothache or need dental work. By coming to terms with your feelings, you can overcome them.

What Causes Dental Phobia?

It’s a kind of anxiety caused by the following reasons:

  • Fear of pain. While there is mild discomfort with some procedures, painful treatments are rare. For some adults, fear of the dentist stems from a negative childhood experience. For others, the anxiety starts to build after hearing or reading horror stories of bad dental experiences.
  • Fear of injections. A lot of people are terrified of needles — and popular horror movies do little to allay those fears. It may be especially frightening to receive injections inside your mouth.
  • Fear of anesthetics. If you’re a person who likes to stay in control, anesthetics can be disconcerting. You may be afraid that the anesthesia will wear off or the possible side effects. Some people don’t like the numbness or tingling that occurs once the anesthesia wears off.

These feelings of helplessness, loss of control and anxiety combine to make you very uncomfortable with the thought of visiting a dental office. It’s understandable. It’s awkward to sit in a chair with your mouth open and have a stranger put their fingers and shiny instruments in your mouth. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome your doubt.

Treatments for Fear of the Dentist

There are ways to treat dental phobia, typically using behavioral therapy. Some centers may use dentists and psychologists who collaborate to help people overcome their fear.

Behavioral treatments focus on helping you relax. You may be asked to perform progressive muscle stretches and relaxation. Breathing exercises are another way to keep your heart rate and blood pressure down when anxiety begins to build.

Systematic desensitization is another possible treatment. During this technique, you go through a series of relaxation exercises. Gradually, you are exposed to the items that make you fearful, such as the dental instruments and bright lights experienced in most dental offices. You can practice the relaxation techniques to overcome other fears as well.

Other treatment options involve psychological therapy that teaches you to fight your fears. If all else fears, pharmacological techniques such as anesthetics and medications can help your dentist keep you calm without risking your dental health.