Nearly half of all people are believed to have some sort of dental fear or anxiety, with a small percentage suffering from extreme worry. And where that fear stems from can vary, depending on past experiences, trauma or how people and ideas shape your thoughts. The main psychological culprit of dental fear2 seems to come from past traumatic dental experiences, usually in childhood. If a person had a bad experience with a dentist – a root canal, pulled tooth or negative interactions with dental staff – when they were younger, those harrowing episodes can follow us as adults. Another reason for anxiety can be based on fearing the sound of a dental drill, or a numbing injection, or seeing blood. Hearing loved ones’ negative experiences or seeing dental visits depicted as unpleasant in TV shows, movies and advertisements can reinforce that notion as well3. There’s also evidence that suggests some people are genetically predisposed4 to fear pain and experience dental anxiety. As with any fear, though, there are things that can be done to calm us back down.
• First, discuss any fears you might have – however small it may seem – with your dentist. They may have techniques and strategies to ease your fears and help you overcome any specific anxieties. • Second, try some cognitivebehavioral exercises such as muscle relaxation, intentional breathing and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones5. If doing it on your own doesn’t alleviate your anxiety, you might think about seeking professional help with a psychologist or therapist. • Lastly, be careful with using nitrous oxide or medications to help with fear at the dentist. If the only way a patient can get through a dental experience is with medicine, then they may become more reliant on the medication6. Facing your fears is never easy, but dental anxiety doesn’t need to be one of them. Your dentist wants your teeth and gums to be healthy, which in turn can do wonders for your overall physical and mental health as well.
Because, while fear stems from your brain, you shouldn’t be scared out of your mind.