There’s a reason why “fear of the dentist” always makes it onto those Top Ten Most Common Fears articles you see as you scroll through Facebook: It’s a remarkably widespread fear. In fact, experts estimate that about three-quarters of Americans deal with feelings of fear or anxiety before visiting the dentist, while as many as 30-40 million refuse to seek professional dental care due to dental fear. Sadly, skipping out on seeing the dentist often results in poor oral health and a significantly increased risk of tooth loss and dental emergencies. To help shed some much-needed light on this topic, we’re answering a few frequently asked questions about dental fear and anxiety.
Is Dental Fear the Same as Dental Anxiety?
No. Although these terms are often treated synonymously, they actually refer to two different phenomena. Dental fear, or dental phobia, is a recognized mental health disorder characterized by fear and panic when confronted with dental care. Dental anxiety is milder form of this disorder, and is characterized by nervousness, unease, and mild or moderate distress.
Why am I Afraid of the Dentist?
The leading cause of dental fear and anxiety is unpleasant past experiences that linger and become a source of negative thoughts and associations. Other causes include being influenced by others’ stories of unpleasant experiences, misinformation learned from watching movies and TV, and simply not knowing what to expect during your visit.
What are My Options if I’m Afraid of the Dentist?
If you suffer from mild or moderate dental fear or anxiety, nitrous oxide is a great option to help you feel more relaxed. Inhaled through a soft nasal mask, nitrous oxide quickly induces feelings of detachment and euphoria.
For patients with more acute fear or anxiety, oral sedation (also called pill sedation) induces a more profound sense of relaxation. Oral sedation can be combined with nitrous oxide to deepen the relaxation for patients with severe dental phobia.
ABOUT YOUR KATY DENTIST:
Dr. Colin Lathrop and the Lathrop Dental Center proudly serve patients and families from in and around Katy, Fulshear, Weston Lakes, Simonton, Richmond, Rosenberg, Brookshire, Wallis, Orchard, and all surrounding communities. If you’d like to schedule a dental appointment, you can reach our office in Katy, TX, by calling (832) 437-3849.