Does this sound familiar? Are you living with a broken, sore tooth, and tell yourself you’ll call the dentist only when you can no longer tolerate the pain? Or have you told yourself you’ll make an appointment when work is less busy, but that was one year ago? Or do you become tense and anxious with the mere thought of stepping into a dental office? If you identify with these examples, fear (phobia) or dental anxiety may be affecting your ability to achieve optimal dental and overall health. It may also keep you from achieving your smile makeover.
Talk to Your Cosmetic Dentist if You Have Dental Fears
Before you start thinking negative thoughts, it is essential to keep in mind the positive aspects of your dental treatment. Sometimes when you step out of your comfort zone, it’s easy to want to totally avoid an uneasy situation. Every step you take towards your goal to better dental health will benefit you and your quality of life. In overcoming dental anxiety, be proud of every achievement you gain in pursuit of your goal.
Why is it that some people have strong phobias or anxieties and others do not? For many people, phobias are linked to childhood incidents. Children may experience a fearful situation, such as almost drowning, where their “fight-or-flight” survival responses are triggered. Fight or flight reactions occur when a rush of adrenaline causes rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, cold sweat and other symptoms.
Many children may “outgrow” these fears as they have more positive encounters with swimming. However, some may always associate the ocean with this survival panic. In addition, there are studies that suggest learned behavior from other family members and genetics may also contribute to enhancing a person’s phobias.
Why is it important for people with a fear of the dentist to not avoid treatment? Unfortunately, if there are dental problems, neglect and time will increase its severity, decrease treatment options, and be more expensive to fix later. If cavities are left untreated, the decay may continue deeper into the tooth, leading to possible root canals, infections or possibly even tooth loss. Furthermore, periodontitis or gum disease, can lead to tooth and/or bone loss if left untreated.
Your dental appointment is made up of many different sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and touch. For someone who is dental phobic, anxiety may heighten their sensitivity to these sensations. If the patient’s perception is that the situation is out of their control, the patient may have the desire to leave their appointment and not come back.
Some Suggestions to Help You Feel More Comfortable So You Can Get that Beautiful Smile
To avoid this unwanted outcome, be sure to talk to your dentist and his or her staff about your special needs. Take control of your dental appointment. If you don’t tell them about your concerns, they will assume you are comfortable during your appointment. If knowing what the dentist is doing makes you feel more at ease, let the dentist know. For example, talking you through a dental procedure may make your appointment much easier.
During the dental procedure, if you need a quick break, work out a code with the dentist, such as raising your hand. This way you won’t feel helpless once the dental procedure starts. Also, if you want to communicate during your appointment, but are unable to speak, ask for a paper and a pen at the beginning of your appointment. This way you will still be able to relay your immediate concerns.
Be aware of what contributes to your stress before your appointment and take the necessary steps to minimize it. (1) Avoid caffeine on the day of your appointment. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it may cause you to feel anxious and jittery. This may contribute to a stressful appointment. (2) Allow extra time to get to your appointment. No one enjoys rushing through traffic when running late. Rushing to your appointment will increase blood pressure, which will then increase your stress level. (3) Take something to do or read while you wait. This will let you make good use of your time, the way you choose to, instead of concentrating on waiting for the appointment.
Everyone is unique. Something in the dentist’s office may bother one person, and totally not concern another. So take a moment before your appointment and ask yourself: What part of your dental appointments really bothers you? If it is the sound of the drill, bring ear plugs or a Walkman radio/tape player to your appointment to help drown it out. If it is the anesthesia shot that bothers you, remember that today dentists are knowledgeable of methods to administer “pain-free” shots. Many times a “topical” anesthesia is placed at the injection site using a cotton swab prior to the shot being given. If you don’t like to see the needle, make you sure tell the dentist!
Establishing good rapport with your dental professionals will assure that you not only receive timely dental treatment, but also do so in comfort. Don’t worry about what others will think about your special needs. You should feel proud of yourself for taking steps toward your goals of optimal dental health. Be proud of taking risks, challenging yourself, and achieving goals. Because in the end, you and your health are truly the ones that will benefit.
Dr. Wynn Okuda is an award winning international leader in cosmetic dentistry. He is one of only 280 dentists in the world to be accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Dr. Okuda turned the dental profession on its head nearly a decade ago, replacing pain, fear, & discomfort with the Dental Day Spa system. His offices for cosmetic, restorative and implant dentistry are located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Dr. Okuda has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, American Spa, Shape Magazine, Better Homes & Garden, Health & Fitness Sports Magazine, New Woman, and dozens more!
Dr. Okuda is the founder of “Give Back A Smile,” a charitable foundation of the AACD which helps survivors of domestic violence throughout the nation to restore their smiles and lives. He has assembled nearly 1,000 cosmetic dentists nationwide to help fight against domestic violence.