scared woman at dentist

Dental Phobia: What You Need to Know

Dental anxiety and phobia are more common than most people think. One bad experience in the dentist’s chair may be enough to develop a lifelong aversion to going to the dentist. A fear of needles or medical procedures can also trigger anxiety while getting dental care. 

Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand that you're not alone: 36% of Americans have some level of apprehension about visiting the dentist. Our team at Dental Associates of Lodi is well-equipped to help you overcome your dental phobia.

Understand Where Your Anxiety Comes From

Dental anxiety is so common, dentists even have a model to help explain it:

Fear and anxiety —> Avoidance of dental care —> Deterioration of dentition —> Feelings of shame, guilt, and inferiority

In other words, you stop making regular dental exams because of your anxiety. This negatively impacts the health of your teeth, making you feel self-conscious. This self-consciousness makes you feel even more anxious and fearful about going to the dentist. The cycle continues until it is broken.

How do you break the cycle? The only way to overcome your fear is to make the decision to schedule an appointment to get the dental care you need. It might be helpful to know that we see a lot of patients who haven't been to a dentist in years. 

When you come in, we don’t expect an explanation for why you haven’t been to the dentist in a while; instead, all that matters to us is that you're here now to receive the treatment you need. Think of your first visit after a lapse in dental care as starting with a clean slate—you’re on the right track now and we’re here to support you as you work through your dental phobia. We will not make any judgements, we are only here to help and to make you comfortable during your treatment.

Talk to Your Dentist

It's important to let your dentist and hygienist know if you have dental anxiety before they begin treatment on your teeth. Even if you're just scheduled for a hygiene appointment, it's still a good idea to notify our team. When you tell us about your phobia, it makes it easier for us to support you. 

We'll work with you to come up with a plan to make your visit less stressful. This could include taking breaks if you're feeling overwhelmed or talking to you during your treatment so you're aware of what's going on and what to expect. Don't think you have to deal with the anxiety you feel on your own.

Distract Yourself

Some patients do better if they can keep themselves occupied during their treatment. If you think this would help you, feel free to listen to music or your favorite podcast on your phone. We do offer a set of earphones so that you can listen to your favorite music from your personal mobile device. You might even be able to watch a movie or a TV show during your appointment, depending on the type of care you need. If you fidget when you're nervous, bring a tension ball to squeeze.

Try Relaxation Exercises

Although some nervous patients like to keep their minds occupied, others need mental clarity. Deep breathing is a research-backed coping mechanism for anxiety. As you wait for your procedure to begin, breathe in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth to help calm your body and mind. Progressive muscle relaxation and guided meditations can be helpful during your procedure—there are a number of apps that can help you learn these techniques.

Ask About Sedation Options

At Dental Associates of Lodi, we offer our patients safe, effective sedation dentistry options to help them feel relaxed and comfortable throughout their procedures despite their dental phobia. These include:

  • Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, which is inhaled through a mask that is worn over the nose and wears off quickly after your procedure is complete.
  • IV sedation, which allows you to feel as if you are asleep during your dental treatment, although you are still technically conscious. You will not be aware of your procedure and have no memory of it afterwards.
  • Conscious oral sedation, an option that leaves you awake and aware of your surroundings, but deeply relaxed.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you’re ready to break the cycle of dental anxiety, contact us today at 862-247-8030 to schedule an appointment.