If you're honest, you've probably agree that the dentist office is not one of your favorite places. You certainly do not get excited about going to your dental appointment. In fact, you get nervous and anxious when you think about your looming appointment.
The fear of the dentist is quite common for both children and adults. The anxiety of visiting the dentist also varies from mild anxiety to debilitating phobia.
Why are people afraid of the dentist?
There are four main reasons people are reluctant to see their dentist: fear of pain, loss of control, bad past dental experiences and embarrassment.
Fear of Pain
Patients who main fear of the dentist come out of the fear of pain tend to be middle-aged and older adults. These patients have received dental care before many of the modern dental advances used today. Dental treatment in the past with much lower-tech equipment and methods involved more pain and discomfort. Patients then associate the dental office with pain even though modern dental offices now have dental equipment and technology that includes many quick and pain-free dental treatments.
Loss of Control and Feeling of Helplessness
People like being in control. We also do not like surprises. Instead, we like to know what to expect and see what is happening. Much like going into the doctor's office, the patient must sit in the dental chair while the dentist does his or her examination. Some dental patients are uncomfortable not being able to see what the dentist is doing inside their mouth. They do not know what is going to hurt. Once they are in the dental chair, they must cooperate and give way to the dentist, fully trusting in his or her capacity.
Bad Past Dental Experiences
Patients may have flashbacks to negative past experiences and get themselves to believe the same bad dental experience will happen again. Likely these past experiences involved unnecessary or unexpected pain or discomfort, a negative prognosis, a longer than expected wait or procedure or poor customer service by the dentist and office staff.
People can dress up and cover up physical imperfections when going out, but the condition of their mouth and how good or poor their oral hygiene habits are can not be hidden from the trained eye of a dentist.
Patients who have not gone to the dentist recently or who do not practice proper dental hygiene may be too ashamed and embarrassed about the condition of their teeth and gums. They fear a negative prognosis and reprimand by the dentist or dental hygienist.
Patients with the fear of embarrassment have their anxiety heightened due to the nature of a dental exam. During dental procedures, the dentist has to be very close to the patient's mouth and face, which can be uncomfortable for some patients. Patients who are embarrassed of the appearance of their smile, therefore, may also be self-conscious about their breath and even how their face looks.
Patients who are afraid of going to the dentist risk potentially seriously oral and overall health issues forming. It is important for every patient to see their dentist on a regular basis to keep and maintain a healthy smile.
Many dental offices now offer sedation dentistry to relax patients with dental anxiety and give them a pleasant dental experience with the goal that they will no longer see the dental office as a scary place.