The first thing you can do is realize that your dental fear can be overcome. Fear is a learned behavior and can be unlearned. Behavior modification techniques that focus on treating you as a whole person, not merely someone requiring dental work, can help you overcome your fears. This obviously takes a team approach involving you, your dentist, and their staff.
Communication is the key. You must feel comfortable expressing your fears and concerns and believe that you are being heard. If you feel that the dentist and staff are not genuinely concerned and listening, get referrals to other offices. You should never compromise the level of communication that you feel is necessary to give you a sense of control over your experience in a dental office.
Modern dentistry with a compassionate dental team can be truly painless. You can desensitize yourself to your fears if you take the first step and allow the right team to help you overcome your fears.
Empower yourself with the knowledge to alleviate the fear of the unknown. As a patient, you have the right to a clear explanation of any procedures your dentist proposes. If you have a question about a particular procedure, don’t hesitate to ask it.
You should also have input into treatment decisions and choices. You should be honest with your dentist regarding how much treatment you think you can tolerate at first. As you build confidence in yourself and trust in the team that is caring for you, the length of your appointment and the amount of work accomplished can increase.
Establish a signaling system between you and the dental team, allowing you to stop work for any reason—whether it be because you need more anesthetic, want to rinse out your mouth, or simply need a two-second break. The most common signal is raising your hand.
If you have been criticized in the past for your behavior or if you are embarrassed by the dental condition your neglect has caused, express yourself honestly and give your current dentist a chance to understand your concerns and show you that they care.
You will be amazed at the wealth of treatment options available. With modern dentistry, it’s never too late to create a new smile!