If you deal with dental fear or anxiety when you visit the dentist, you're not alone. It's such a common problem that as many as 20% of people in the U.S. avoid heading to the dentist due to fear or anxiety. Unfortunately, dental fear and anxiety can result in oral health problems, since it often results in the avoidance of dental care. Here's a closer look at dental anxiety and helpful behavioral management techniques you can use to reduce the problem.
Common Causes of Dental Anxiety
In most cases, fear is the underlying reason that people deal with dental anxiety. Some of the most common fears that result in anxiety in-office include:
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of injections
- Fear of pain
- Fear of judgment
- Fear of embarrassment
In some cases, anxiety also develops due to previous negative experiences in the office. This may include having a dental experience that resulted in pain or even hearing about the traumatic dental experience of another person.
Behavioral Management Techniques
If dental anxiety is keeping you from receiving the dental treatment you need, consider trying behavioral management techniques to reduce dental fear and anxiety. Some helpful techniques to try include:
- Distraction – Arming yourself with distractions during your dental visit can reduce anxiety by keeping your mind occupied during treatment. Excellent distractions include movies or music. These distractions also help keep your focus off of the dental sounds, which often result in anxiety. Many dental offices offer music or movies for patients to enjoy. If your dentist does not, ask about bringing your own.
- Biofeedback – Biofeedback teaches patients to begin to control normal involuntary functions, such as blood pressure, breathing, muscle tension, and heart rate. Relaxation exercises often used in biofeedback therapy include progressive muscle relaxation, mindful meditation, and deep breathing.
- Aromatherapy – Some patients find that aromatherapy helps reduce dental anxiety. Aromatherapy, a type of alternative medicine, uses aromatic plant oils and plant materials to alter an individual's physical, psychological, or cognitive well-being.
- Modeling – Modeling often works well for children who deal with dental anxiety. This technique involves having the patient observe someone else in the situation so they know more about what to expect. Since fear of the unknown is a common cause of dental anxiety in children, modeling often proves helpful at reducing a child's anxiety when visiting the dentist.
Talk to Your Dental about Pharmacological Options
Of course, many dentists also use pharmacological methods to reduce dental anxiety in patients. It's important to talk to your dentist about the options available. Your dentist will be happy to work with you reduce your fear and anxiety while ensuring you receive the oral care you need.