Dental health knowledge is growing and options to improve smiles have advanced. People are starting to care more about the health of their teeth than ever before. They are concerned with how their teeth appear and how to keep them healthy — and braces can play a big part in both.
But for some of us, the thought of going to the orthodontist causes a severe case of anxiety. So much so that the condition has a name: odontophobia. Fortunately, orthodontists have ways of making their treatments more bearable, comfortable and pleasant!
Prevalence and Consequences of Patients with Dental Phobia
Not many people look forward to sitting in the orthodontic office, and some patients have an actual phobia of it. Children are more prone to anxiety while at the orthodontist, but adults can suffer from this anxiety as well. Getting braces often comes with feelings of fear about the unknown.
Just how problematic is odontophobia? Severe anxiety prevents many Americans from scheduling an orthodontic appointment and getting the right preventative care their teeth and gums need. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that over 28 percent of the total respondents had a dental fear of some sort, and over 36 percent of them hadn’t been to the dentist in over a year.
The consequences of this lack of preventative care go much deeper than tooth pain and lost teeth. Studies are now linking gum disease to certain illnesses like stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
Reasons for Orthodontic Phobia
For some people, getting braces already feels like a laborious task. After all, you have to wear an apparatus over your teeth, be cautious of eating certain foods, and clean and maintain your aligners.
All in all, here are the most common reasons people fear orthodontic procedures.
- Trouble breathing through the nose
- Scary dental equipment noises
- Getting a tooth pulled
- Sensitive gag reflex
- Fear of the unknown
Getting Over Your Orthodontic Phobia
Both you and your orthodontist can use techniques to help with your orthodontic phobia.
What your orthodontist does
Since compassionate oral care professionals, such as the experts at Labbe Family Orthodontics, understand that dental phobia is a real issue and have techniques for dealing with your fear. Speaking about your phobia with your orthodontist ahead of time may help.
The best orthodontist implements simple techniques to help you feel more in control. Some of these techniques include the following:
- Explaining to you what you’ll feel and for how long.
- Regularly asking for your permission to continue.
- Providing you with the opportunity to take a break from the procedure if you feel uncomfortable.
During your consultation, your orthodontist will talk with you about what to expect—they won’t wait until you’re already in the dental chair. Once the procedure begins, he or she will continually ask you how you’re doing and if you’re comfortable.
What you can do
There are things you can do too to combat your dental anxiety while in the orthodontic practice chair. For instance, you can try the following:
- Refrain from over-thinking. In most cases, a visit to your orthodontist isn’t nearly as painful as you anticipate it will be. Patients often state that during their most dreaded procedures, like getting their braces tightened, they expected way more pain than they actually experienced.
- Admit your fear. You are not alone in your fear of the orthodontist . It’s quite common. Once you realize that you’re not alone with your phobia, the situation becomes easier to take on. Admitting your fear about getting braces on your teeth or about any other dental procedure is perfectly normal and encouraged.
- Ask your orthodontist for a play-by-play. To overcome your anxiety, have your orthodontist sit down with you and give you a step-by-step play of the procedure, so you’ll be mentally prepared for your appointment. Knowing ahead of time what to expect can provide you with some comfort.
- Distract yourself. Find something to distract yourself while you’re in the orthodontist’s chair. Bring along your headphones and listen to some of your favorite music. Many orthodontists have TVs in their treatment room to help distract their patients.
- Relax. There are many relaxation techniques you can try. Controlled breathing is a good relaxation technique to help you overcome your anxiety. Practice taking a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds, and then letting it out slowly. Think of how a leaky tire lets out air. Controlled breathing slows your heartbeat and relaxes your muscles.
No matter how brave you are, getting braces at a family orthodontics practice can be frightening. Just remember the reason you’re getting them and the huge improvements they provide for your teeth. Braces not only improve your smile but also boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Give your closest orthodontist, Labbe Family Orthodontics, a call at 410-267-7300 to set up your initial consultation and discuss ways to overcome your orthodontic phobia. At Labbe Family Orthodontics, patient care is our number one priority and we promise to treat you like family.