Well over 50 percent of people in the United States have some form of phobia relating to dental orthodontics. This condition, characterized by intense fear, can be incredibly stressful. Unfortunately, dental phobia can also have a significant negative impact on a person’s health. The good news is that it is possible to overcome this phobia when effective methods are used.
Let’s Understand It
Really, the first step to overcoming dental phobia is to get a better understanding of what it is and how it can affect your body.
What Causes This Condition?
Dental phobia, also known as odontophobia, dental anxiety, or dental fear, typically begins as the result of having some form of traumatic experience at a prior visit to the orthodontist. Perhaps there were complications related to a procedure, or that procedure was expensive or painful.
However, dental phobia can also arise out of a miscommunication, misperception, or personality clash between an orthodontist and their patient, as well as something they may have read, seen, or heard. Even a negative experience with a non-orthodontic medical professional can cause dental phobia.
Feeling anxious from time to time is completely normal; it’s simply a part of life. However, the kind of anxiety associated with dental and other phobias goes far beyond the realms of normal anxiety. As such, the effects on the health of a person who experiences this high level of anxiety can be both intense and detrimental.
Fight or Flight Stress Hormones Released
A person who is dental phobic may experience a range of symptoms related to their anxiety. These can include increased breathing and heart rate, panic attacks, increased blood pressure, and nausea. All of these are the result of the body’s release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which is also known as the “flight or fight” response.
This ancient response is meant to assist you in getting away from something you perceive to be a significant threat like a bear or a violent person, which is obviously good. What isn’t good is how your body is affected when it releases stress hormones on a regular basis. Constant anxiety can affect the immune and digestive systems, not to mention place stress on every organ, eventually resulting in the development of serious diseases.
Oral Health Worsens
On top of that, the fear of a local orthodontist may be so intense that a person will do whatever they have to in order to not visit one. Not going to see an orthodontist for a checkup or procedure can cause a condition to worsen beyond repair. As well, leaving that condition to get worsen can also cause dental disease and, ultimately, overall health problems.
Dealing With Dental Phobia
Now that you understand the causes, symptoms, and health concerns of dental phobia, you know how important it is to manage the condition, and you can start doing this right now.
Up Your Routine
Improving the way you take care of your teeth, gums, and mouth at home can be a great stepping stone to feeling less anxiety when you see your orthodontist. Basically, it’s simply choosing to make your oral care a priority.
In addition to brushing and flossing daily, you’ll also want to keep track of how long you’ve had your toothbrush and replace it every three months. Adding, fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods to your diet will help to support your new routine. You’ll also want to eliminate decay-causing sugar from your diet.
Training your mind and body to make a positive association with orthodontist visits can also be effective. Visualize sitting in the orthodontist’s chair and having a nice chat and a positive experience. If you’re already sitting in the chair, picture a place that you find relaxing like a beach or a holiday home.
You can also make a positive association with smell; for example, lavender is well-known for its ability to calm the entire system. Whenever you feel anxiety over an orthodontist visit, immediately inhale a bit of lavender essential oil essence into each nostril and enjoy its calming effects.
If you experience tension headaches as the result of anxiety, combining a few drops of lavender and peppermint essential oils and applying them to painful points on the head can also help. Important note: Never ingest any essential oil; they should only be used topically.
Deep Breathing and Meditation
Breathing slowly and deeply will help to reduce a rapid heart rate and benefit your oral health. Breathing through your mouth can cause your teeth to become misaligned, so, where possible, try to breathe exclusively through your nose.
Try this: Simply focus on the act of breathing. Feel your lungs expanding as you inhale, and then as they empty on exhale. Feel the cool air entering your nostrils, and its warmth as you breathe out. Although simple, this technique can have very powerful calming effects. Not only that, but you can do this anywhere and anytime you feel stressed, and no one has to know what you’re doing but you.
Confide in Your Orthodontist
Believe it or not, starting a conversation with your orthodontist can go a long way toward helping you overcome your phobia. You’ll not only be developing trust in them, but they will likely have several options for making you feel more comfortable when you visit. These can include:
- Soothing music
- Noise-canceling headphones
If you find that nothing seems to be working, a visit to your medical doctor might be the next step. There are many medications available that can be used safely in conjunction with the above strategies to help you control your anxiety.
Bring Something That Comforts You
Many patients bring objects with them that offer comfort. Fidget spinners and stress balls provide a way for patients to express their anxiety in a healthy way. Having something humorous to listen to in the form of an audiobook, movie, or comedy show can help you lighten the mood in the waiting room and once you’re in the orthodontist’s chair.
Access Your Support Group
Chances are that your friends and family are aware of your anxiety. They’ll support you in your efforts to overcome it. You can ask them to accompany you to appointments, talk to them about your fears, and get suggestions for how they deal with their own life stresses.
Be Patient and Stay Committed
Often, those who experience dental phobia can become frustrated when their attempts to reduce stress don’t work, but here’s the thing: Nothing is going to work overnight. It might not be easy, but patience is a very important key to controlling your anxiety, as well as staying committed to your goals to improve your oral care and remain as calm as possible.
Also, it can help to start small. For instance, instead of doing deep breathing several times a day, just try it for five minutes and see how it works, gradually increasing the time until you feel better.
A Warmhearted And Leading Local Orthodontist
Labbe Family Orthodontics will do everything we can to ensure your visit is pleasant because we understand dental phobia. That’s one of the reasons why we’re a top Maryland orthodontic practice. We also offer a range of payment options, including zero-interest in-house financing. We also accept most insurance.
No matter whether you visit our Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton/Gambrills, or Greenbelt locations, you’ll be greeted by a friendly and attentive staff that is dedicated to your comfort and health, and who’ll always treat you like family. Life is better with a smile! Schedule your consultation at Labbe Family Orthodontics today: (410) 267-7300.