You Can Beat Stress

Overcoming Your Dental Fear

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By: Debbie Boynto

It starts with a minor pain when you chew and grows to an excruciating toothache. Or you bite down and get a sharp pain that feels like it is stabbing the whole side of your face into your eye. "Oh, no", you think. "Now I'll have to go to a dentist."

We need our teeth to eat, to enhance our smile. But we fear dentists more than any other doctor.

Why is that?

To overcome our fear of dentists, we should look into your level of fear. Rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10 for your level of agreement for the following:

? The night before your dental appointment, you feel uneasy and anxious thinking about your appointment and want to cancel the appointment.

? You enter the dental office one limb at a time, dreading each step that brings you closer.

? Your blood pressure goes sky high the minute the dental chair is reclined.

? You feel helpless, anxious, and/or out of control in the dental situation.

? The sight or thought of a dental injection brings up fight or flight reactions.

? You feel you can't breathe when dental instruments are put in your mouth.

? You wish you could just pass out and wake up after it's all over.

If you scored yourself a 5 or more for any of the above, you have dental anxiety.
Discuss the points you scored highest on with your dentist and his assistants. It is important that the whole dental staff takes your fears seriously and listens to you with compassion.

Now, where does that fear come from? See is any of these sound familiar:

? I had a terrible experience in the past with a dentist. Past careless comments have made me feel uncomfortable.

? My teeth embarrass me. I am afraid that my dentist will think my problems are from dental neglect and I fear ridicule and/or belittlement.

? "I'd rather have a root canal than..." and other dental analogies instill fear in me, as does scary portrayals of dentists and dental procedures in movies, magazines and other media.

? When I tell someone I'm going to the dentist, they share their 'horror' stories with me.

? My parents were afraid of the dentist and passed that fear on to me.

? I can't relax in the dental chair. It's uncomfortable, lays down too far. I fear loss of control. I panic. I feel strapped down.

? I hate shots! The dental needle looks a foot long to me.

Yes, there are some dentists that are not compassionate, gentle and caring and a few bad apples can spoil the whole barrel if you're already anxious.

There are many more dentists today than there have been in the past. If your dentist makes you uncomfortable in any way, feel perfectly justified in finding another. If his staff is not compassionate, handles you roughly, or belittles your fear, tell your dentist. If it is not handled to your satisfaction, find another dentist. But remember, just because he/she has a great personality does not mean they are the world's best at their work. Isn't that true in all professions?

So now that you know what causes your fear, what can you do about it?

? Express your fear to your dentist and staff and expect their help in overcoming your fear. Remember you are not their only patient with fear and they will admire your resolve. If they laugh you off, they're not compassionate. Find another dentist.

? Not all dentists and/or staff are rough handling their patients. Dental procedures are not supposed to hurt. If your dentist hurts you, jerks your head into position, seems impatient or unprofessional in any way find another dentist. (And report this one to your State Dental Board).

? Make a conscious effort to overcome your fear. Set your mind to it. Talk it out to yourself and realize that it can be overcome.

? During your appointment, take deep breaths and let them out slowly.

? Remember, the needle itself is not the major cause of shot discomfort, but it is the pressure and volume of the numbing agent being injected. Try to see it as a help to you instead of a pain to be endured.

Stop the cycle. Fear is learned and can be un-learned. You can pass on these fear-reducing techniques when your friends or family develop a toothache and express their fears to you. You CAN overcome your fear with the right resolve, dentist, and staff helping you.

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About the Contributor

Debbie Boynton has worked in the dental field for eight years. Find more information on this topic at: You may use this article on your website as long as this resource box is included and this article remains unchanged. ?2006 Debbie L Boynton

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