3 Things You Must Know If You are an Adult With Dental Fears

8 February 2016
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


Fear of the dentist is fairly common among American adults with an estimated 9-15% of Americans who avoid visiting the dentist because of anxiety. This is a worrying statistic, and if you are part of this group, it's important to realize the following three things:

Your Fear Started Earlier in Your Life

If you are afraid of sitting in the dentist's chair, it's important to realize that this isn't a fear that you were born with. Rather, it is likely a fear that has developed over time, usually dating back to a bad experience in your childhood. In the majority of cases, dental fears arise from one of the following:

  • An uncomfortable or painful experience when visiting the dentist as a child.

  • A sense of loss of control while visiting the dentist as a child.

  • Stories from other children about their uncomfortable experiences in the dentist's chair.

  • Having a parent who is scared of the dentist and conveyed this fear on to you.

Any of the above situations can cause a child to feel afraid, which triggers defense mechanisms in the body, such as an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, or "butterflies" in the stomach. If these triggers were allowed to develop, you may have come to associate them with your fear of the dentist, so that any time you make an appointment as an adult, your body responds in the exact same way.

You Can Overcome This Childhood Fear

It may seem like an uphill struggle right at the minute, but once you realize that your dental fears stem from your childhood, you can take measures to overcome your fear. There are a few things that you can do to help you speed up this process.

  • Visit a supportive dentist – While all dentists are trained to the same standards, there will be a large difference between them in how they handle patients with dental phobia. Therefore, you should speak with your current dentist about your fears and ask how they can help. If they are unsupportive of you, find a dentist who will take the time to help you face your fears head-on.

  • Remain in control – One of the biggest problems sufferers of dental phobia face is a loss of control during dental treatment. To tackle this problem, you should speak with your dentist in advance of your treatment and ask them to talk you through the procedure and which tools will be used at each stage. If you are worried about a particular treatment, ask your dentist to extend the process over a number of visits to let you gradually build your comfort level in the chair.

  • Use distraction techniques – For your first few visits to the dentist, try and take your mind off things as much as possible by using distraction techniques while in the chair. This could be something as simple as listening to relaxing music or meditating for ten minutes before undergoing your treatment.

There are Alternative Treatments Available

If your fear of the dentist is related to a particular tool or technique, there are alternative procedures available that can alleviate your concerns. Thanks to modern technology, there are now good alternatives for the following:

  • Injections – Rather than using a syringe, dentists can use a clever device called "The Wand", which is a small, pen-like device that administers anesthetic to your gums. This process does not look or feel like an injection, which can help to remove any negative connotations you may have of the dental syringe.

  • The drill – For many people, the sound of the drill can be enough to cause panic while in the dentist's chair. If this is you, there is a technique known as air abrasion that can be used instead of a traditional drill. This process involves the dentist blowing a concentrated stream of air into your tooth, which removes any decay that may be present.

  • Dental crowns – Rather than fitting a full dental crown, which involves the removal of a large amount of the tooth structure, dentists can fit inlays or onlays that serve the same purpose of crowns but remove the need for any extensive dental work.

If you have any questions about other dental procedures, learn more here.