What are people most afraid of? You’ve probably heard most of the big ones by now: death, flying, darkness, public speaking, and spiders. But what about dentists? If you have this phobia, you’re not alone. Odontophobia or Dentophobia is a pretty common fear among humans both young and old. Dental procedures can feel invasive, and oftentimes patients feel helpless and insecure lying on their back while someone investigates their pearly (or not so pearly) whites under a bright overhead light. And, if nothing else, no one wants to hear that they’ve done a poor job of taking care of themselves.
But whether we like them or not, dentists are important in many ways. Oral health is deeply connected to our overall health. Plus, a good-looking smile can take us a long way in terms of our personal and professional relationships. Virtually all adults agree that a healthy smile is socially important, according to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Therefore, keeping a clean, healthy smile is one of the best things we can do for our physical, social, and emotional well-being.
So how can we face and overcome our dental demons? These three tips might be a good start.
1) Take Good Care of Yourself
When it comes to doctor and dental appointments, the better shape you’re in, the less work will need to be done, and the faster you get to leave! In other words, if you maintain good oral hygiene to begin with, dental check ups won’t need to be as long, and you won’t have to worry so much about needing a serious procedure. Here are some things to consider.
Ideally, everyone should brush their teeth after every meal. Only 28.7% of women and 20.5% of men actually do this, however. Brushing twice a day is usually sufficient to maintain proper oral health, though nearly half of the population fails to do this. Additionally, flossing daily is a good practice, though only 22% of people claim to do this. Lastly, you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months, even though a good three quarters of the population waits much longer.
2) Communication is Key
It’s always good to remember that your dentist is a human being like you, whose primary goal is to make you and all patients feel comfortable and help ensure good oral health. This simple fact might be muddled when the dentist put on his/her mask and the overhead lights blare on you. But the fact remains.
A good way to retain this knowledge is to talk with your dentist before any procedure, if possible. This will both humanize them and allow him/her to clarify what the procedure will entail, what it may feel like, and so on. It will also give you a chance to voice your concerns. Having an open dialogue with your dentist will likely reduce some of your anxiety.
3) You’re Not Alone!
For some people with significant fears, it helps to know there are others out there with similar feelings. When it comes to the fear of dentists, there is a lot of common ground to be found. And thanks to the power of internet communities and forums, people from all over the globe can share their stories with others and build support groups. Even if you’re not comfortable discussing your fears openly, there are plenty of websites and articles online that tackle the issue of Dentophobia and related issues. It might help to explore some of these things and gain some perspective and perhaps a better understanding of your fears.
The idea of the dentist or a dentist appointment might frighten you, and that’s perfectly okay! But dentists are important, and so is oral health. In order to live a healthy life, we need to take care of our teeth and our smiles. Facing our fears might not always be easy, but it is possible. When it comes to facing fears of the dentist, taking care of our oral health, talking to our dentists, and seeking support from others can all go a long way.