Ah, the annual dental exam.You start sweating well before your appointment date. An hour beforehand, you floss, brush, and use mouthwash like mad, even though you haven’t done so in a year. You make promises to yourself that you’ll give up your favorite foods, if only you don’t have a cavity or need a root canal.
Odontophobia is a big name for a simple fear – fear of the dentist, dentophobia or dental anxiety. As a dentist, I get it. We know that very few people like to come and see us, so we don’t take it personally. Going to the dentist is about as much fun as a mammogram for women or a prostrate exam for men.
Avoiding the Dentist
According to Peter Milgrom DDS, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of Treating Fearful Dental Patients, you are not alone. Approximately 5 to 8% of Americans avoid dentists because of their odontophobia and 20% more will only go to the dentist when the situation gets dire.
You fear might stem from a bad prior experience at the dentist. Or maybe it’s the sound of the drills. Or the lack of control you feel when you are in the dental chair.
At Midtown Dental Group, we work hard to help our patients feel relaxed and as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. No matter its source, here’s some tips to help you overcome your odontophobia :
- Talk to us about your fears. We will understand and will do everything we can to make you feel less anxious.
- There are many alternatives to novocaine, including nitrous oxide and other sedation dentistry.
- Bring in headphones with your favorite tunes or a small stress ball for your hands so you can focus on something else.
- Meditate. Believe it or not, some of my patients actually meditate in the dental chair and think about the outcome (a beautiful smile) versus the moment.
- Give yourself a reward afterward. Treat yourself to a shopping spree or a hot fudge sundae. I’m not crazy about the sugar, but hey, you’re not crazy about going to the dentist!
- Don’t look. I admit our instruments can seem scary. With the introduction of laser dentistry, many of our loud and whirring drills are gone. We normally have you wear protective eyewear,so don’t peek.
- Ask about our same day dental procedures. Where as crowns and implants used to take two or three visits to accomplish, we can now perform these procedures in one visit. We know your time is valuable, so we will try and get you in and out on time.
- Unclench. Too often I see patients whose fists are all balled up or whose face has a scowl. Try and relax your muscles one at a time.
Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist in NYC
At Midtown Dental Group, we treat many children through our pediatric . We know that kids in particular have a fear of the unfamiliar. We spend extra time explaining cleanings, cavities, pulpitis treatment or fluoride treatments with them, so that they have a pleasant experience. Additionally, many children perceive a parent’s anxiety, which makes them more fearful. It’s best if you talk to them in advance so they know what to expect.
Whatever you do, don’t let your fear or odontophobia stop you from coming to see us. I promise you, the anticipation is far worse than the experience!