How to Recognize Fear of Dentistry in a Loved One

Fear and anxiety can present in different ways. Avoidance is one of the primary signs of fearing the dentist, and fear is one of the most common reasons people don’t visit the dentist. In fact, 24% of South Dakotans who haven’t been to the dentist in the last year say fear was the reason they didn’t go.

The first step in helping a family member care for their oral health is learning to identify anxiety.

How to identify anxiety or fear of the dentist

Here are 3 common symptoms of dental anxiety:

  1. Scheduling an appointment and canceling about a day before without rescheduling another date.
  2. Skipping the scheduled appointment altogether.
  3. Hiding in the bathroom or leaving before the appointment.

How long since they saw a dentist?

Do you know the last time your family members went to the dentist? If it’s been more than two years, there’s probably something other than inconvenience keeping them from making an appointment. It’s recommended that everyone visit the dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings.

Avoidance can make dental anxiety worse

People who are scared of the dentist will tolerate pain as conditions worsen. Ongoing toothaches are almost always caused by inflammation from irritation. If your tooth hurts, there’s probably something that needs addressing.

Even if they’re not in pain, it may be embarrassment for other reasons that keeps someone from visiting the dentist

Studies show that one instance of dental anxiety in the family leads the rest of the family to have a higher level of anxiety about the dentist, too.

No matter the reason, helping a loved one face and overcome their fears is important to keep their smile healthy with regular dental checkups. The more often you go, the better your oral health and the less likely you’ll need a lot of work done.

How can I help?

Suggest these 3 common ways to ease fear to help them take control of their dental experience:

  1. Talk to the dental team before the appointment begins. Expressing your concern will help ease your anxiety and allow the dental staff to adjust their treatment accordingly.
  2. Make yourself more comfortable. Bring headphones to listen to a favorite playlist or podcast, or have a child take along a comfort item like a favorite stuffed animal.
  3. Take care of your teeth. Brush two times every day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Floss. Limit sugar in what you eat and drink. Regular home care will prevent a lot of problems.

Or you can even be that friend that goes along to the visit for support.