Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Working over 10 years in the dental field has opened my eyes to a world of pain management in one of the most highly feared endeavors of all time, going to the dentist! For most not only is it a fear but it is an event where most associate it with some traumatic experience. Whether it is the anticipation of a "needle" or possible pain when getting a tooth pulled most people can admit, even dentists themselves, that going to the dentist is not at the top of their to do list. It further explains why in communities of people of color, seeing the dentist is often saved until the very last minute when tooth pain is through the roof and swelling is out of control. I have often asked myself the question," is there any way to make the dental office experience more enjoyable?" If only there was a way to at least encourage people to make their appointments before the last minute and create a space that lowers anxiety rather than elevate it.
To answer these questions, I have spent the last 10 years, practicing dentistry with the intention to learn what my community's trigger points are regarding fear of the dentist. Through this I have been able to learn how to create a new way of servicing. By creating a list of the 5 most important ways to manage fear of the dentist I realized that not only do these apply to dentistry, but they can be applied to everyday life and how we can learn to approach any fears that face us in life. Most articles that you may read nowadays list the same words over and over... breathe, meditate, thing more positive thoughts. However, most can admit that when facing strong fears such as going to the dentist, remembering those trendy articles you read on managing stress go straight out the window. My goal in writing this was not to provide some watered-down methods on how to release fear but rather to share my story of running and dental practice and the keys points I learned in helping others push through dental trauma and anxiety in the most fear based medical profession of our time.
1. Be open about your fears. One of the main ways I have helped guide others is by first being a listening ear. Most people were taught along the way to fear the dentist because of either a traumatic dental experience or one that was told to them by a family member or friend. In most cases these experiences are very REAL. However, opening about your fears initiates the process of becoming more comfortable. It also serves as a release to those experiences that bother you.
2. Be honest about what you really want. In most cases, people want things that are enjoyable. That includes being happy, smiling, eating good food, being confident, etc. There are many people that want to have a better smile and chew better, but they are unwilling to be honest about it. Everyone deserves to smile confidently. Just by admitting this, allows the process to begin to have a more confident smile.
3. Forget about the money. Besides the fear of the dentist being painful, there is also the fear of being hit with a painful bill at the end of each dental office appointment. We live in a capitalistic culture where unfortunately health care is also impacted. However, the truth of the matter is that people will always be willing to pay for what they want. So, the next time you think that maybe you will not be able to afford the smile of your dreams, remember that there is something in your life you are paying for. How important is it to you to pay for the things you deserve?
4. Visualize what you want. It is always helpful to go into any fearful situation with the desire to reach a goal. Starting from the very beginning, visualize yourself having the desired result. Our minds are more powerful than we think, and we literally can create whatever we want by first visualizing it in our minds. This will also help reduce the anxiety.
5. Pace yourself. The other thing is that most people want to rush the process back to good dental health. I always remind my patients that it took some time to get here so it will take some time to get back. The amount of time varies of course, but if you are serious you will learn to begin with a time frame that is good for you. There is always a solution to dental issues!
Always remember a new you Begins in your mouth!