Dental phobia, namely a fear of the dentist, is common. Rather than explore why people don’t go to the dentist, I’ll gloss over it briefly. Some of us had bad, painful, or even abusive experiences with dentists. Some of us were raised without proper dental care and therefore underestimate the value of it. Others of us will hide behind the shield of lack of insurance and/or financial hardship. Most dental-phobes fore go seeing a dentist until they’re experiencing unbearable pain, which only serves to feed the dental-phobia cycle.
Proper dental care is essential. Deep down inside you already know why you should go to the dentist. I’m not going to go into medical details because I don’t think I could- or should- scare anyone into seeing a dentist. Plus, if you’re a dental-phobe you are (by definition) already afraid of the dentist.
The real issue here is how to get over being afraid of the dentist and actually make, and show up for, dental appointments. So please read the following steps, put some serious thought into it, and then put your thoughts into action.
Find a dentist that you resonate with. I know this sounds a little New- Age-y, but it’s important that you find a dentist you’re comfortable with. This is the single most important aspect when it comes to receiving proper dental care. If you don’t like your dentist you won’t go back.
Decide what traits in a dentist are most important to you. For me, it’s all about caring and concern. I need a dentist who is truly concerned with my well-being. For someone else it may be a confidence issue. For that person the “bedside manner” of a dentist won’t matter as much as credentials or achievements. Put your finger on whatever it is you want from a dentist and then start your search.
Be rational. If you’ve had previous bad experiences with a dentist, put the past behind you. The overwhelming majority of dentists are highly-trained, highly-competent professionals. If you don’t believe it, give yourself some time to accept this as a truth that is new to you.
Interview dentists. Ask questions in person or on the phone. (It’s OK to consult with a dentist without sitting in an exam room with his/her fingers in your mouth.) Let the dentist know about your fear (or fears, as the case may be). If he/she is equipped to deal with them, he/she’ll let you know. If not, how smart of you to check first! Cross that name off your list and continue your search.
Remember, most of your routine visits will be with a dental hygienist. Just as you interview dentists, don’t be afraid to be introduced to the rest of the office staff. If you’ve been neglecting your dental care for a long time you may see the dentist a lot initially. Once you get into a regular schedule of routine check-ups, you’ll see a dental hygienist, so you have to be comfortable with him/her, too.
It’s OK to cry. If you shed a few tears, so what? They have Kleenex. As a matter of fact, it’s best to let the staff know where you are with this emotionally. I can assure you that the right dental office will treat you with the utmost sensitivity.
For a person who’s afraid of going to the dentist, actually going to the dentist is a huge deal. It’s a gigantic step, so once you’ve taken it be very proud of yourself!