Dental anxiety vs. dental phobia

Dental anxiety vs. dental phobia

Posted on May 12, 2015

Getting on an aeroplane, going to the doctor, getting stuck in an elevator with your least favourite person… They’re all things most people loathe and unfortunately for us, visiting the dentist also rates highly on that list for some.

In certain cases, just the thought of being examined can make people edgy. In more serious cases, people find the thought of visiting the dentist terrifying and will do just about anything to avoid their next appointment. This is what we commonly refer to as dental phobia.

Those suffering from dental phobia (especially in extreme cases), may even put off routine check-ups for years and decades just to avoid going to the dentist. Of course, this can become quite a serious matter in terms of maintaining their oral health in the longer term.

Gum disease, pain, missing teeth… The list of dental issues associated with dental phobia and people avoiding treatment is scary. In the longer term, these people face wider health issues and their ability to chew and even digest food can be compromised.

So what’s the difference between dental anxiety and dental phobia? While they are commonly used together, these two terms are quite different.

  • People who suffer from dental anxiety will feel uneasy about visiting the dentist.
  • Those who suffer from dental phobia will have an intense fear of visiting the dentist and feel incredibly panicked. This goes beyond feeling a little panicked.

Because poor oral health has been linked to a number of serious health conditions (heart disease, lung infections), people who avoid the dentist because of dental phobia can experience some serious ramifications health-wise.

Below, we’ve listed 3 signs that may indicate you suffer from dental anxiety

  • Worrying yourself the night before your appointment and as a result, seriously considering cancelling it.
  • Feeling nervous while waiting for your appointment.
  • Having a sense of dread while sitting in the dentist’s chair.

These feelings are quite common but the good news is that steps can be taken to minimise your fear.

What to do if you suffer from dental phobia or anxiety

Firstly, make sure you tell your dentist how you’re feeling. There’s no need to feel embarrassed – Being honest and open about your feelings can help you to overcome this fear. Relaxation techniques such as breathing can really help you through the situation so be sure to take some timeout before your appointment.

Our team has put together a list of suggestions that might just help to ease your anxiety:

  • Take a friend or family member for support (check they don’t suffer from dental anxiety beforehand or this story may not have a happy ending).
  • Ask your dentist about your options when it comes to calming your nerves (nitrous oxide or penthrox are two common options).
  • Bring some music with you to calm yourself or ask for it to be played in the background during your appointment.
  • Take a Panadol to calm your nerves before your appointment.
  • Dress snugly so that you don’t get those dreaded ‘cold shivers’.
  • Eating something before your appointment will settle your stomach.

The key here is to overcome your initial concerns and visit your dentist. You might just find that it’s all not as scary as you think.

Just make the dental team aware of your anxiety and trust us: Dentists in 2015 are far less scary than they’ve been in the past (forget what they tell you in the movies).

Don’t put off seeing a dentist any longer. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, chances are, you’ve only been working yourself up into more of a frenzy. Don’t let your fear win.