Dental phobia? How to get over your fear of the dentist

Fear of dentists is a common reason people don’t seek treatment they need. According to the American Dental Association, 22 percent of people who aren’t under a dentist’s care cite being afraid as the reason. After concerns about cost, it’s the second most common reason for avoiding the dentist.

Did you know avoiding the dentist can hurt more than your smile? Good dental health is connected to overall health, and poor dental hygiene may increase your risk for heart attack, stroke and even preterm labor.

The first step in conquering dental anxiety is identifying the cause and understanding there are ways to work around the apprehension. Whether you don’t like the idea of dental drills, imagine intense pain or are embarrassed for a dentist to see the current state of your teeth, you can overcome your concerns for the sake of good health.

Here are three steps to conquering your fear of the dentist.

Get to know your dentist.

Many people choose a dentist as a matter of convenience. They look for an office near work or home that is covered by their insurance plan. If you have high anxiety related to dental treatment, this should be only the first step in your search.

Taking the time to interview a dentist and getting a feel for the office can go a long way in making you more at ease when it’s time to sit in the chair. Take advantage of the free consultation offered by many dentists to get your questions answered, set expectations and find the right dentist for you.

This is a good time to share your specific fears and evaluate how each dentist will address your concerns.

Bring a friend or relative with you.

Sometimes it helps just to have someone with you. For those with dental phobia, a trip to the dentist can be overwhelming. Having someone help you remember to take deep breaths can make the experience more comfortable.

Before your appointment, think about what is most stressful for you and communicate exactly what you need from your companion. They might just need to offer a distraction at certain points or remind you that everything is going to be fine.

As a bonus, they can help remember special instructions and important information you might miss during moments of high anxiety.

Try meditation.

Meditation focuses the mind on the present moment, and it may help nervous patients distance themselves from heightened emotions related to dental appointments. Using breathing techniques and visualization, practitioners of meditation learn to calm the mind. Books, audiobooks, podcasts, online videos and apps offer an introduction to meditation, and some specifically tackle dental phobias.

Sometimes the phobia can be compounded by shame that you’re afraid of something so many people seem to do easily. You are not alone. Many people share the same fears, and there are steps you can take to empower yourself to make the best dental care decisions.

Since 1977, Herald Square Dental and the Denture Center in New York City has offered many services: from teeth cleaning to root canals, dentures, implants and more, all at one location. Their in-house lab allows them to fabricate high-quality dentures the same day and perform expert denture repairs and relines “While-U-Wait.”

This material was initially published as Native Advertising Content in a Tribune Publishing Company publication and was produced by Studio 1847 / Tribune Brand Publishing. The newsrooms or editorial departments of Tribune Publishing Company were not involved in the production of this content.