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Common Causes of Dental Anxiety
For many adults, dental anxiety is a serious impediment to proper oral care. This condition is relatively common, affecting around 6.5 million people in the United States alone. As a result, many people may forgo certain types of dental work altogether, placing their oral and overall health at risk. Understanding the potential causes and solutions to this issue can help patients more successfully approach dental treatment.
Common causes of dental anxiety
While there are many reasons a patient may be overly anxious about visiting a dentist, the following explanations tend to be the most typical. It is important for an individual to identify the root cause of the anxiety in order to take the appropriate steps towards recovery.
Negative past experiences
A painful or unpleasant visit to a dental office may be all it takes to trigger anxiety in certain patients. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including
- An unclean or unwelcoming setting
- Unfriendly staff
- Painful treatment without the proper pain management techniques
- Disregard for patient's comfort and needs
Unfortunately, a visit to a sub-par office can have lasting negative results, even if the outcome would have been better at a different location.
Fear of discomfort or pain
Even in the hands of an experienced and gentle dental professional, there can still be some amount of discomfort when visiting the dentist. This can be just as true for routine cleanings as it is for more intense dental work. Many people fear they may not be able to tolerate any level of pain during a procedure.
Preexisting anxiety issues
For some individuals, a fear of visiting the dentist is rooted in other preexisting conditions, such as general anxiety disorder, claustrophobia or agoraphobia. Patients may fear a worst-case scenario during treatment and therefore avoid scheduling important appointments. The close contact and protective coverings that may be required can trigger a panic attack in some people with these types of conditions.
In some patients, dental anxiety is connected to embarrassment over one's current oral health state. Severe damage, decay and tooth loss can be shameful to some people as these issues could be blamed on poor hygiene, bad habits or a lazy approach to dental care. People may fear the opinions and reactions of dental professionals, as well as the amount of work required for treatment.
Coping with dental anxiety
While a fear of visiting the dentist can be a serious problem, there are many solutions available to help put patients more at ease in the office. For starters, open communication about specific needs can help with everything from creating a more calming atmosphere to pain management options. Counseling can also be helpful, equipping patients with relaxation and coping techniques and the proper perspective. Even preventative measures can help prepare an individual for a more successful visit.
Dental anxiety is a serious condition that can prevent many from seeking necessary examination and treatment. While there are many reasons a patient may suffer from this issue, communicating with a dentist can offer tangible solutions for an improved treatment experience.
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