Different studies show that 15-20% of people in America avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety. Dr. Steven Kacel, dentist of Highland Park, IL area, explains more about what dental phobia is, and how you can work towards overcoming it.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a fear of going to the dentist’s office, having one’s teeth examined, or having any dental cleaning or procedures done. Dental anxiety crosses the line into dental phobia when the fear is so overpowering – and often irrational – that people are unable to attend appointments at all. Dental anxiety implies unease and fear at the thought of a dental visit, whereas dental phobia is a sense of true terror, panic, or dread. Individuals suffering from either of these conditions may experience oral health problems as a result.
Dental Anxiety Symptoms
According to this Highland Park IL area dentist, the symptoms of dental anxiety are pretty easy to identify. Here are the symptoms and signs that indicate a problem with dental anxiety or phobia:
- Trouble sleeping in the nights leading to a dental visit
- Increasing feelings of nervousness and anxiety
- Crying or feeling physically ill at the thought of visiting the dentist
- Intense uneasiness at the thought or reality of having objects are placed in your mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or fainting when at the dentist office
- Inability to go to the dentist office or receive treatment
Dental Anxiety Causes
Your dentist near Highland Park, IL reports that there are two primary causes for dental anxiety: negative experiences in the past, and fear of pain.
If you experienced a painful or frightening dental visit in the past – especially during childhood – you’re much more likely to fear the dentist now. The more you think about the fear, the worse it can get, so sometimes the passage of time can actually make the phobia worse. Fear of pain is also quite understandable; no one wants to be hurt, and oral pain can be particularly upsetting. It often occurs during, or as a result of, the mouth being obstructed. This can cause feelings of choking, claustrophobia, or an inability to breathe. This panic combines with the pain to create very negative associations with all things dental.
Other patients are very self-conscious about the way their teeth look, or how their breath smells. Still others are uncomfortable being in such close proximity to anyone, and feel frightened when someone leans over them. It can feel very vulnerable when you’re in the dental chair, and the addition of medical instruments can exacerbate this.
Dental Anxiety Coping Mechanisms
One of the most successful methods for dealing with dental anxiety is meditation and breathing exercises. These can be done to prepare in advance, while you’re in the waiting area, and even while you’re having the treatment done. Talking over your fears with the dentist is another good way to feel better. Knowing that you have someone on your side and looking out for you can be enormously comforting. Extreme anxiety and phobias may require cognitive behavioral therapy, anti-anxiety medication, or sedation dentistry.