Dental anxiety is very common. Most people have some level of fear and discomfort at the dentist, though only a small number of people have fear so strong they can’t make their regular dental appointments.
But why is dental anxiety so common? Where does it come from? Almost all dental anxiety is learned, and there is no shortage of sources that teach us to be anxious.
Parents Pass on Anxiety
For most of us, our parents are the source of our dental anxiety. It is likely that they had high levels of anxiety, and that they passed this on to us without intending to.
They also likely learned their fear from their parents. That is why most of us have dental fears that are out-of-date. Our fears of dentistry are related to procedures that used to be less pleasant than they are now. Dental technologies and techniques have improved to the point where there is little reason to be free, but most of us still are. Even fillings are feared for this reason Root canal therapy suffers from this perhaps more than any procedure. Root canal therapy provides tremendous relief for people with infected teeth, but it’s a feared procedure because people think it will hurt.
Culture Recycles Anxiety
Although our parents may be bad for passing on outdated fears, they have nothing on popular culture. Pop culture is our collective memory, and it latches on to any good stories, whether they were ever true or not. The unpleasant (and possibly unkind) dentist has long been a reliable villain, so they keep re-using him. Even as real-life dentists are getting more compassionate and caring, their representations in TV and movies do not improve.
And, unfortunately, that helps shape many of our own views of dentists.
Some Have Bad Personal Experiences
But it is true that some people do have genuinely bad experiences at the dentist. Not all dentists deliver quality, gentle care at every appointment, so some people have a bad visit sometimes.
Unfortunately, one bad experience is often all it takes to create a persistent anxiety. People may have one bad experience and fifty good ones, but it’s the bad one that shapes their perception.
Innate Fears and Phobias
For some people, though, the source of their fears is not the dentist at all, but something else. Some people have innate fears and phobias that manifest at the dentist. Fear of needles, fear of water, even fear of authority figures can all cause people to have an anxious response to dental appointments. If you have these types of anxieties, you don’t really have a fear of the dentist, per se, but the effect is the same.
No Matter the Source, We Can Help
In the end, it does not matter where your dental anxiety comes from. We have sedation dentistry options to help you overcome it to get the dental care you need or want.
Nitrous oxide has relatively low anxiety relief. But it is a fairly strong pain reliever, which is why it remains popular even though it is not the best at diminishing dental anxiety.
Oral conscious sedation is great for people with moderate to severe anxiety. It can even be taken before you come to your appointment, so it helps if your anxiety keeps you from even making it to the office.
We also offer drug-free relaxation with NuCalm. NuCalm uses the natural mechanisms in your body to turn off your anxiety so you can relax–without drugs.
Want to learn more about how we can help you overcome your dental anxiety? Please call (314) 375-5353 (Downtown St. Louis) or (314) 678-7876 (Clayton) today for an appointment with St. Louis dentist Dr. Chris Hill at City Smiles.