What is dental anxiety?

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What are common concerns about dental checkups?

Here are some common concerns people have about what might happen at the dentist's office.

Will a routine visit hurt?

If you go to the dentist regularly and take good care of your teeth, there will probably be no pain. If this is your first visit in a long time, or you do not take good care of your teeth and gums, there may be some irritation as the dentist cleans the spaces between your teeth and between your teeth and gums.

Will I need a filling?

A filling is a substance that dentists use to replace a decayed or broken portion of a tooth. A filling is often needed to fix a cavity. Whether you need a filling depends on how well you take care of your teeth. If you brush and floss on a regular basis and limit how much sugar you eat, chances are you won't need a filling.

Will I need dental X-rays?

Dental X-rays can identify cavities, bone disease, and infections and help in planning orthodontic treatment. In children, they can also identify when new teeth are coming in. X-rays can help your dentist find problems at an early stage, which can save you time, money, and unneeded pain or discomfort. You and your dentist will set up an X-ray schedule based on your needs.

Getting past your fears about going to the dentist

Many people worry about going to the dentist. You may be very nervous and may actually feel sick to your stomach. Some people become so nervous that they just don't go to the dentist. But this can lead to serious problems, including infected gums and teeth, difficulty chewing, and lack of self-confidence because of bad teeth or bad breath.

To help get over being nervous about the dentist, it is helpful to understand why you may be nervous. Reasons include:

  • Having had a painful or bad experience at the dentist, including insensitive comments made during your visit. The smell of the office or seeing or hearing the dental tools (such as the sound of a drill) may bring this back.
  • Feeling helpless or out of control. Being confined to the chair and not being able to speak and communicate may cause this. The precautions your dentist takes, such as wearing a mask and gloves, may add to this feeling.
  • Being embarrassed about the condition of your teeth.
  • Hearing about others' bad experiences at the dentist or being influenced by how TV, newspapers, or magazines portray them.
  • Fearing the unknown, including the procedures your dentist uses.

To help feel less nervous about a dental visit, try the following:

  • Talk about your fears.

    Tell your dentist that you are nervous, and try to explain why. This way your dentist can do everything possible to put you at ease.

  • Ask your dentist about what is going to happen and why.

    If you understand the steps of getting a filling, for example, you may feel less nervous about it. Ask your dentist to tell you when they are moving from one step in a procedure to another step.

  • Make your dental visit at a time when you are not rushed or under pressure.

    Early morning, late afternoon, or Saturday may be the best time, as you may not have to worry about missing school or work.

  • Listen to music.

    If the sound of a drill bothers you, ask your dentist if they have music and headphones. If not, bring your own audio player and headphones.

  • Agree on hand signals to communicate pain, discomfort, or the need for a break.
  • Use relaxation techniques.

    As you sit in the chair, try deep breathing or thinking about a favorite activity or place.

  • Don't be afraid to switch dentists.

    If you talk to your dentist and feel that they are not listening or not making an effort to help you feel at ease, try another dentist. Tell your friends about your fears, and ask them about their dentists.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.