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Dentist Dread: Overcoming Fears of the Chair

Abigail Aaronson -- Because a significant population has a fear of the dentist, many professionals have designed specialized practices that cater to people with these fears. Here are tips to help you overcome your anxiety of dentists and ensure your oral health.

Some people avoid the dentist due to unpleasant experiences with having their teeth examined or maintained. These experiences can create a psychological anxiety that can have far-reaching ramifications. Left unresolved, it is possible that the lack of preventative care for teeth could lead to tooth loss, gum disease and even diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Because a significant population has a fear of the dentist, many professionals have designed specialized practices that cater to people with these fears. If you have this type of anxiety, communicate your feelings clearly to the professionals to ensure that they take special care to make you more comfortable.

It could be helpful to visit the dentist and speak with staff prior to scheduling an examination to ensure that you feel comfortable with the professional. Choose a dental office with a nonthreatening environment. Soothing music, quiet colors, and attractive pictures on the walls can be helpful for easing anxiety. It often helps if the examination rooms have an "unclinical" appearance, with instruments hidden out of sight. Staff members might not dress in the typical scrub outfits, instead dressing in nontraditional uniforms. Other methods designed to put patients at ease include complete explanations of procedures, asking permission to continue procedures, creating a sign for the patient to use to halt the procedure, and giving ample breaks throughout the process. Ask a dentist about newer technology such as quieter drills, less invasive techniques, and a special wand for administering sedation or numbing medicine.

Once you find a dentist who will treat you compassionately, prepare for an appointment. Ask a friend or relative to come with you for moral support. Your support person might even sit near you during the procedure. Use music or television to distract you during the exam. Create a special CD or playlist of your favorite motivational songs to get you through the appointment. Learn one or two relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing or muscle relaxation to help you focus on relaxing your body. Speak with professionals about sedatives that might make any dental procedures easier. Make sure that you can go at your own pace through the procedure, especially if you are undergoing something extensive or potentially painful.

It may be helpful to pursue therapy or hypnotherapy to help you resolve your dental fears. Phobias often respond positively to therapy. One therapeutic technique involves introducing the fear in small and controlled situations to help you realize that you can manage your anxiety and overcome it. This desensitization technique helps you acclimate to unfamiliar sensations and experiences without creating an overwhelming situation. Therapy can also involve creating specific distraction techniques and coping skills that you can use while you are in the chair. Equipped with these tools, you can manage your anxiety more effectively during a procedure. The therapeutic process necessary to overcome dental fears is typically not extensive. Most people proceed through the therapy with between six and 12 sessions and then feel ready to have their teeth examined and treated.

Abigail is an experienced healthcare professional who has been writing about health and beauty issues for many years of her life. She loves to inform people about plastic surgery procedures so that people know what they are getting into before they make such a commitment. North Olmsted, OH, residents looking for a dentist to ease their fears can visit Sikora Family Dentistry and learn more at

© 2015 Abigail Aaronson

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