Some people who fear dental treatments are those who are used to being in control -- whether at home, at work or in personal and professional relationships. In today's lingo, these people are sometimes referred to as "control freaks." Despite this negative label, these controlling people are often highly intelligent and very successful. For instance, you may have heard the statement that "doctors make the worst patients," but other professionals, including lawyers, teachers, engineers and high level business executives could just as easily be put into this category. Although that statement is a generalization, it is accurate to say that some of these high-powered people can be difficult patients because they are accustomed to controlling their environment.
When people who are used to being in a position of power are put into a situation where they must relinquish that power to their dentist, anxiety, confrontation and avoidance are the most common reactions. The first step in overcoming this fear is to tell the dentist that you want to know what he or she is doing and why. Ask your dentist to explain X-rays; show you your mouth with an intra-oral camera; give you handouts or in-office presentations; or any other information to help you have a more active role in your dental care. When you know what the dentist is doing and why, you will have a greater sense of control during the procedure.
It is also important to ask the dentist how you should signal if you are having pain or any other uncomfortable sensation. Many dentists tell their patients to raise their hand if they are having pain -- to signal them to stop. I have had patients tell me that they had a dentist continue working on them even after they repeatedly raised their hand. This is not a dentist that you want treating you. Rather, I would suggest that you test your dentist by raising your hand -- even if you're not having pain -- to see if he or she will indeed stop. The dentist who follows through with that promise is what we call a "keeper."
One thing I like to do is to let my patients have some input as to what procedure they want done first. Many times, there is no urgent need to have dental cavities on the left side of the mouth treated before those on the right side, or one tooth crown done before another. I believe that it is perfectly appropriate for you to ask your dentist if you can have a particular procedure done first or last. If there is no urgent need, the dentist may comply with your wishes.
Allowing you to help "call the shots" can be an effective way to reduce your tension if a loss of control is your main source of anxiety. (Please note that some dental procedures must be done before others for your benefit. Your dentist should give you a good, jargon-free explanation to help you understand why).
Even if you have avoided dental care for years because you fear losing control, take heart with the knowledge that this fear can be overcome. The first step is to make an appointment with a dentist who has a reputation for being both skilled and compassionate. This appointment should be for consultation only, not treatment. Discuss how you feel with the dentist. In most cases, you should know in only a few moments if this dentist has what it takes to help you.
Do you think you might have a problem with dental anxiety? Don't wait until it gets worse - call us at 1-866-970-0441 to find a great dentist today.