Dental anxiety, or a general fear of the dentist and dental procedures, is very common. In fact, it’s estimated that 50 to 80 percent of the population have some degree of anxiety when it comes to dentist appointments.
If you know someone that has dental anxiety, you know how hard it can be to get them to the dentist twice a year. However, it’s important to encourage them to do so for their oral and overall health. In this article, we will cover some of the best tips to help someone with dental anxiety face their fears and go to the dentist consistently.
What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension, or nervousness when faced with a dental procedure. It is a very common experience, particularly among children, that can have a negative impact on oral health.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between dental anxiety and dentophobia, which is the extreme fear of dentists and dental procedures. In general, people with dentophobia will avoid going to the dentist at all costs. People with dental anxiety will still go to appointments despite feeling uneasy.
Symptoms of dental anxiety can range from mild to severe and include sweating, a fast heart rate, signs of panic such as crying, and an overall feeling of fear. If a loved one has any of these symptoms before or during a dental appointment, there are things you can do to help.
Tips to help someone with dental anxiety
If someone you love has dental anxiety there are ways to help ease their anxiety before and during dental appointments.
Encourage them to talk with their dentist
Encourage your friend or family member to have an open and honest conversation with their dentist before their next appointment. Open communication will let the dentist know they are experiencing fear and can offer advice for anxiety relief. Many dentists will take the time to walk their patients through the steps of the dental procedure to help them feel more at ease.
Accompany them to their appointment
If possible, join your loved one at their appointment. Your company may serve as a distraction before and during their appointment, which will help keep their mind off of any procedures. Additionally, your support will mean a lot to them.
Do breathing exercises together
Purposeful breathing exercises have been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This tool is incredibly useful when it comes to calming a loved one down before their appointment. Try doing some of these expert-backed breathing exercises together for anxiety relief.
If you can join your loved one at their appointment, bring some distracting items that will help keep their mind off of any fear they are experiencing. Ideas include a smart device with mobile games or shows/movies that they love. Magazines or books that you can read together are also great options. If you cannot join them for the appointment, encourage them to download these mobile games that can aid in anxiety relief.
Listen to their concerns
Sometimes listening to a loved one's fears or concerns is the best way to show your support. Have a conversation about what they are nervous or fearful about and be sure to actively listen to them. Focus on being supportive and understanding rather than trying to change their mind or thought processes.
Supporting someone with dental anxiety is important for their wellbeing
Although it can feel frustrating to help someone dealing with dental anxiety, it is extremely important. While brushing and flossing are great maintenance tools for good oral health, it’s vital that people see their dentist twice a year for preventative checkups. Dentists and dental professionals can help spot signs of oral cancer and other medical conditions that may have otherwise been missed. If you feel that your loved one is avoiding the dentist or suffering from extreme fear, encourage them to seek professional help so that they can maintain their oral and overall health.
For more tips about how to deal with dental anxiety, check out this blog.