For most people, going to the dentist is an unpleasant but manageable experience. However, for others, going to the dentist causes severe anxiety, leading them to delay or avoid dental treatment. Unfortunately, this behavior can spiral into a vicious cycle of dental pain, health problems, worse anxiety, and more complex and costly dental procedures

What is Dental Anxiety? 

Dental anxiety is a universal problem affecting approximately 36% of the population, with 12% suffering from extreme dental fear. It’s defined as fear, anxiety, or stress associated with the thought of visiting the dentist for preventive care and over dental procedures. When dental anxiety is severe and causes irrational fear and avoiding going to the dentist, it can be classified as a dental phobia.  

Dental anxiety affects everyone a little differently, but common symptoms include:  

  • Trouble eating or sleeping the night before a dentist appointment 
  • Feeling incredibly nervous as your appointment gets closer 
  • Sweating, racing heartbeat, or palpitations before your dental exam or treatment 
  • Getting to the dentist’s office but being unable to enter 
  • Visible distress, crying or being physically ill at the thought of visiting the dentist 

What Causes Dental Anxiety?  

There are many reasons why some people have dental anxiety and phobia, such as previous negative experiences. Here are the most common ones: 

  • Traumatic experiences: Dental anxiety is mostly a learned response to previous dental, medical or life traumas. For example, patients with a sensitive gag reflex often struggle at the dentist from a very young age, leading to a lifetime of dental anxiety and fear. Children who’ve been held down for injections, throat cultures, or minor medical procedures often remember their experience and point to it as the source of their dental anxiety. Some people also begin to develop dental anxiety when they don’t feel like they can trust their dentist after being pushed into unnecessary and costly treatments.
  • Lack of control or personal space: The perceived lack of control or the thought of someone being up close and personal in your mouth during dental visits can also cause you to feel anxious about going to the dentist. 
  • Embarrassment: If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may be apprehensive about learning about the condition of your teeth and gums. You may feel self-conscious about your oral health or worried your dentist will judge you. 
  • Mental health conditions: Some mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, can increase the risk of a person experiencing dental anxiety.  

How Do We Help with Dental Anxiety at Honest Care Dental? 

At Honest Care Dental, we understand how distressing it is to go to the dentist if you have dental anxiety. We strive to create a welcoming environment at our dental office, helping anxious patients relax, stay calm, and be comfortable during treatment. Creating more positive experiences around dental care can help ease your fear of the dentist.  

  • Open communication: If you are tense or anxious, just telling someone can make you feel better. Share how you feel when you schedule your appointment or with anyone on the team when you’re here. Communicate your fears and any bad experiences you may have had in the past with Dr. McMillan – if we are aware, we can adjust our methods and suggest coping strategies. A huge part of our dental practice here in Salem, NH, is cultivating patient relationships by getting to know you and your specific needs. We use that information to create personalized treatment plans that you understand and are comfortable with.   
  • Explanation of treatment and other options: Knowing what will happen can help alleviate the fear of the unknown. Dr. McMillan will give you all the necessary information regarding your dental condition, treatment options, and preventive procedures. We’ll explain each step of your treatment and expect from start to finish. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; if you have concerns or aren’t sure about something, Dr. McMillan is happy to provide clarification.  
  • Comfortable atmosphere: Our friendly, professional team aims to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere for you during the appointment and treatment process.  
  • Sedation options if necessary: If none of the above ease your dental anxiety, we offer oral sedation to keep you relaxed and comfortable throughout your appointment. Dr. McMillan will consider several factors such as the severity of the dental anxiety, the type and complexity of the procedure, your overall health, and the availability of a friend/family member to drive you home to determine if oral sedation is right for you.

What If I Haven’t Been to the Dentist in a While?

If you haven’t visited the dentist for an exam or cleaning, you’re at risk of dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss. The best way to avoid pain and complex dental procedures like root canals and dental implants is to have routine visits with Dr. McMillan – we will diagnose problems early when they’re still easily treatable and help you prevent future issues.   

Schedule Your Dental Appointment Today!

Dental anxiety is no reason to avoid essential dental work for your oral health. At Honest Care Dental, ensuring you are as comfortable and relaxed as possible at every dental visit is our top priority. Please contact our amazing, friendly team to discuss any of your concerns or make an appointment.