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Dental phobia and anxiety are different but similar issues that keep at least five to eight percent of Americans from visiting the dentist as recommended. Failure to face dental anxiety or phobia can allow the teeth to decay or conditions like periodontal disease to set in.

Instead of avoiding the dentist, facing dental anxiety or phobia can help you to maintain good oral health.

Symptoms of Dental Phobia or Anxiety

Dental anxiety usually manifests as nervousness or concern about an upcoming dental visit or even the thought of going to the dentist. Dental phobia is a feeling of dread that may even cause panic to set in. Dental phobia is more intense, but both can cause some of the same symptoms.

Symptoms of dental phobia or anxiety include:

  • Nausea at the thought of a dental visit
  • Trouble breathing during dental examinations, cleanings, or other procedures
  • Trouble sleeping prior to a dental visit
  • Stress over the sight of dental instruments and lab coats

What Causes Dental Anxiety and Phobia?

Dental phobia or anxiety can be caused by a bad experience at the dentist’s office at some time in your life, whether you remember it or not. A fear of not being in control can also cause dental phobia or anxiety to set in and it may extend to other aspects of life, too. Additionally, some people may feel a primal instinct to protect their mouth or face and may be very uncomfortable when anyone goes near these sensitive areas.

In some instances, the cause of dental phobia or anxiety is not vague at all, but specific. Some fear the pain that may accompany a dental deep cleaning after a long time of not receiving a cleaning. Others may become anxious at the thought of being told about dental problems or at having to undergo treatments.

Overcoming Dental Fears and Phobias

The first step to overcoming dental fears and phobias is to be honest about the issues with yourself and your dentist. If your dentist can help to ease your fears in any way, it may make your visit more pleasant, which could help to make subsequent visits easier. Even just talking with your dentist about what to expect and being able to see the instruments and the room ahead of time may be helpful.

Dentists may also help to make your visit more comfortable in other ways, such as allowing you to stay somewhat upright in the chair or using topical anesthetic before injections to mitigate pain. Dentists may recommend bringing in headphones if the noises of instruments sparks your anxiety.

If you have anxiety or phobias surrounding dental visits, calling and talking about your fears may help your dentist to make accommodations that can help you keep up on oral care.