Most of us would like to think that we outgrew our fears of the dentist along with our fear of cooties and the like. Unfortunately, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes dental phobias as being quite common and affecting as many as one out of four individuals. While this fear can be rooted in a variety of locations, the most common is the fear of the unknown and a feeling of vulnerability. People feel vulnerable and helpless while lying back in the chair, and having a stranger push sharp instruments and suction tubes in makes the experience all the more uncomfortable. Clear communication, however, can help to reduce these fears and make the dental procedures less intimidating.
Communicate Your Fears of the Dentist
Dentists are used to people being afraid of them. Their training not only includes the basic dental procedures but also a cultivation of people skills and the famed “bedside manner.” They expect people to be nervous, particularly if these people have been avoiding going to the dentist for quite awhile. However, it is important that you still share your fears of the dentist. He won’t know what it is that makes you uneasy. Is it the entire procedure or one tool in particular? Would you feel better if he told you what each tool was for? Even if all you can do is explain to him the basics that unnerve you, he will be better able to tailor your experience to meet your needs. This does not mean that he won’t have to do anything with the drill, but it will mean that he will be especially careful. It’s also important that you share this so that you don’t seem to be calm and then freak out in the middle of the dental procedures.
Chat with the Dentist and Dental Assistant Beforehand
Dentists and dental assistants are famous for trying to have conversations while your mouth is filled with gauze. However, there is that period of time before they get started when you might have the opportunity to chat with them. If you do, then take the time to be friendly. Most of these people are actually quite nice. Once you are reminded that these men and women are people just like you, it is easier to see them as the professionals that they are rather than masked individuals who just want to make your life miserable.
Most dentists ask patients whether they have any questions or concerns about the dental procedures. Relatively few patients actually take advantage of this offer for fear that they will seem childish or weak. If you have a question, even the typical “is it going to hurt?” then ask it. Don’t brood about it in silence. In most cases, what you create in your mind will be far worse than what will actually happen. Most dentists are more than happy to answer your questions, and it will help them to gauge your response so that they can adapt their methods if possible.