Dental Anxiety: 4 Tips to Stop Fearing the Dentist

Dental Anxiety: 4 Tips to Stop Fearing the Dentist

People fear going to the dentist for a whole host of reasons. Some have had a bad experience in the past, while others become anxious about the office itself, such as the smells and sounds. And those who have a mental health condition like anxiety or PTSD can simply become fearful even without a specific cause.

At Kiran Rapal, DDS, Inc. in Saratoga, California, Dr. Kiran Rapal and her team understand that dental anxiety is a very real phenomenon. But Dr. Rapal has 20-plus years of experience treating patients who become fearful for a variety of reasons. Here, she shares four tips to help quell your dental anxiety and stop the fear.

Why do I fear going to the dentist?

No matter what your specific fear is, you’re not alone. The market research firm DentaVox surveyed 18,000 people around the world about their dental anxiety. A whopping 61% of respondents said they suffered from dental fear, and another 4% indicated their phobia was so severe they’d never been to a dentist. The most common dental anxieties reported, in order of prevalence, are:

  1. Fear of pain
  2. Discomfort from chemical smells
  3. Fear of the sound of the drill
  4. Dreading being stuck in the dentist’s chair
  5. Having to keep their mouth open for long periods

Whatever causes your anxiety, it’s more than just an annoyance. You can impact your long-term oral health by skipping out on routine visits or failing to seek help when you have an emergency. But without routine dental care, Dr. Rapal can’t detect problems while they’re still easy to treat. You end up with more pain, more in-chair time, and higher dental costs.

4 tips to stop fearing the dentist

Dr. Rapal tries to dispel your anxiety at every opportunity. She says her goal “is to change people’s perspective about visiting the dentist. My team and I have created a soothing and nurturing place for all patients. We want to be your partner in your journey towards a healthy and beautiful smile.” Here are four tips to help stop your fear.

1. Schedule a pre-appointment consultation

If you have an upcoming appointment, even if it’s just for a routine teeth cleaning, schedule a consultation in advance of that date. That way you can discuss your fears directly with Dr. Rapal. Once she knows there’s an underlying problem and what your specific fears may be, she can work with you to overcome the situation.

One way she does this is by describing the procedure you’re having and what she’s doing while she’s doing it. Knowing what’s going to happen can help eliminate fear of the unknown and put you in a calmer mental state.

2. Arrange for a timeout

If you fear sitting in the chair with your mouth wide open, it helps to know you can request a timeout any time you need one. Before she starts the work, Dr. Rapal will arrange a hand signal with you that lets her know you need a break, and she can temporarily stop what she’s doing to allow you to relax. She will also periodically ask you if you’re doing OK or want a break.

3. Manage your pain

While most of today’s dental procedures are much less painful than in the past, pain is still a real possibility, both when you come into the office with a problem and when Dr. Rapal gives you an injection of anesthetic.

Understand, though, that the procedure you’re having is designed to eliminate the pain you’ve been experiencing; as soon as the anesthetic hits, your pain just disappears. If you fear the pain of the needle itself, it helps to call up a “happy” image and focus on that; it can be a great distraction until your mouth is numb. In addition, Dr. Rapal can once again talk you through the injection process so you’re not anticipating something that never comes.

4. Ask for sedation

If none of the above tips helps quell your fear, Dr. Rapal also offers sedation dentistry. She pretreats you with an oral anti-anxiety medication that calms you enough to make it through your appointment. Let her know if you want to take advantage of this option.

Do you fear going to the dentist? At Kiran Rapal, DDS Inc., we’ve got ways to help you stop. Give our office a call at 408-864-7010 to set up a consultation with Dr. Rapal, or book online today.

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