Like most healthcare professionals, dentists receive a certain degree of wariness from a portion of the general public. Particularly now, still caught in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals are going to additional lengths to avoid having routine annual exams and cleanings performed, strengthening preconceived dental phobias.
There are a number of reasons why someone would develop anxieties or fears around visiting dentists specifically — including the aforementioned pandemic — with several of these issues sharing common themes. Whether fear of pain, fear of needles, fear of loss of control, past trauma, inherited fear, or another reason entirely, individuals will find reasons to avoid having necessary dental examinations. But by handing control over to their fear, these patients are also setting themselves up for potentially detrimental health issues.
Avoid at Your Own Risk
In the short-term, missing one dental cleaning or check-up won’t necessarily lead to a patient’s teeth falling into ruin. But avoiding multiple appointments due to dental anxiety, or ignoring the signs of an obvious issue that’s already formed, can have significant, permanent consequences for a patient’s health.
The point of a routine dental exam is to both allow a dentist to check on the progress of a patient’s oral hygiene, and also to catch issues while they’re still minor and more easily addressable. As with most other areas of life, being proactive rather than reactive about dental hygiene ends up saving a patient a generous amount of time, money, and physical distress. And having a small additional service performed after a patient is already in the chair is much more preferable than coordinating an additional appointment time to come in, allowing dental anxieties to grow until the next appointment arrives, and allowing an issue to fester.
Of course, issues can still arise outside of the purview of a dentist’s office, completely independently. And if that issue is one that’s already causing pain, difficulty chewing, difficulty swallowing, or obvious signs of decay, it should be addressed by a dentist immediately. But it’s also important to understand that making, and attending, regular cleanings and routine exams puts the odds of strong oral health in the patient’s favor, and arms a patient with the knowledge and tools necessary to maintain their own health on their own terms, as much as possible.
How to Tackle Dental Phobia and Anxiety Head On
The first step toward relieving anxieties, phobias, and fears, is speaking them out loud. Communicating to the dentist what is being felt, and (if possible) why, not only helps the patient and dentist get on the same page, but it can allow the dentist the chance to both address the patient’s concerns, and provide accommodations to help work through what the patient is feeling.
Asking questions, speaking up when you feel pain (and noting to what degree), and talking through preconceived ideas about procedures can all help the dentist tailor the exam experience to be less stressful and more amenable to a patient’s needs and concerns.
In general, practicing mindfulness techniques can help curb the more general anxiety-based issues a patient is experiencing. Two major mindfulness techniques to consider employing are Breath Counting, and Body Scanning. Breath Counting is exactly what it sounds like — slowly and deliberately counting to a beat of five while taking a deep breath in, while holding the breath, and then again while exhaling the breath. The five count helps the mind concentrate on a simple, focused task, while the breathing helps slow and regulate the heartbeat, creating a sense of calm.
Body Scanning is taking account of each section of the body to focus on deliberately releasing tension in each part. Starting either at the head, or at the toes, and working up or down respectively, feel each body part, muscle group, and section. Concentrate on relaxing each piece and part of the body as it is accounted for, to relieve tension throughout the body as it is “scanned”. This can be done silently and internally, and also helps slow and regulate the heartbeat to create a sense of serenity.
Dental Phobia is Valid – But Can’t Be Ignored
Dentists are just like anyone else — they’re human; prone to the same fears, anxieties, and stress that all humans experience. This means that they’re also able to understand, contextualize, and empathize with the mix of emotions that patients feel about their profession and dentist appointments. What a dentist wants more than anything is to help their patient be the healthiest version of themselves. If you’re a central Illinois resident, looking for dental specialist with top quality care and customer service, look to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry of Frankfurt. Providing the community with high-quality professional dental services from an experienced, committed staff, Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry is dedicated to making each patient feel welcome, safe, and respected. Reach out to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry today to schedule your next dental service appointment.