Dental Fear? Jitters At The Dentist? Scared of Dental Visits?

added on: November 11, 2021

“I have always been afraid of the dentist because of childhood experiences. Almost 10 years ago I found Dr. Ban Barbat’s office and all those bad experiences are gone. Everyone is so friendly and cares. The office has worked with me all the time over the past 10 years, without that help I would never have the smile I have now. All the workers are A class staff from the moment you walk in the door till you leave. Highly recommend to anyone looking for the best!”!  -Linda B

If you avoid regular dental care and only go when pain forces you to see a dentist, you have a condition that is known as odontophobia. This is the fear of dentistry. Dental fear and anxiety affect nearly 75% of adults in the U.S.

Fear is a normal reaction. It is the brain’s way of helping to protect us from something that doesn’t feel right. One of the most common of all fears, dental fear is ranked 4th among common fears and 9th among intense fears. Despite advancements in techniques and technology that optimize comfort, fear of dentistry has remained at a relatively constant level over the past 50 years.

Fear or anxiety associated with dental visits often originates from a traumatic dental visit in one’s past. This fear tends to become embedded in the subconscious and comes to the surface from certain thoughts, smells or sounds.

Some adults can’t recall what prompted their dental fear. It just built over time and can provoke reactions such as a more rapid heartbeat or perspiring.

If you have fear or anxiety associated with dental care, nothing is ‘wrong’ with you. Your reaction is perfectly understandable. Yet, if you are one who avoids or delays dental visits until something hurts, it’s important to understand what this does to your overall health, not your oral health.

Nearly half of Americans ages 30 or older (47.3%) have some level of gum disease. Periodontitis, an advanced level of gum disease, is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. It’s inflammatory bacteria have also been associated with a long list of health problems. These are as severe as stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.

Because of the potency of these infectious bacteria, deeper studies in the medical and scientific communities are closely following the various reactions in the body. In some cases, the bacteria can trigger the onset of certain conditions or diseases. In others, it worsens health problems already present.

Here are a few:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • high blood pressure
  • some cancers
  • pre-term babies
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • impotence

Most people realize the importance of brushing twice daily and flossing every day. However, without dental checkups and cleanings twice a year, calculus (also known as tartar) forms.

Calculus is a hardened mass of bacteria that attaches to teeth. These bacterial colonies not only cause cavities, they attack gum tissues and the bone structures that support teeth.

As bacteria run rampant in the mouth, periodontal (gum) disease begins. Symptoms include:

  • tender and/or swollen gums
  • seeing blood in the sink from brushing teeth
  • frequent bad breath
  • gums that turn red in color versus a healthy pink
  • gums that recede from teeth, exposing sensitive root areas

Gum disease can also exist with no obvious symptoms.

Obviously, healthy gums are very important to your overall health. However, for those who struggle with dental fear, maintaining these visits (unless there is an emergency need) pose a challenge.

As a Shelby Twp dentist who has helped hundreds of once-fearful patients overcome their fears, I want to assure you – your fear is nothing to be ashamed of, nor does it make you a ‘problem patient.’ One of my greatest joys as a Michigan dentist is helping a once-fearful patient move past this fear and achieve a smile that looks as great as it feels!

To determine your fear level, ask yourself if you’ve experienced some of these reactions in the past:

  • Just the thought of being at a dental office makes me feel anxious.
  • I avoid regular dental visits until something hurts because I am afraid it will hurt more to have dental care.
  • Just thinking about going to the dentist can cause me to perspire.
  • I feel panicky when I sit in a dental chair.
  • I feel pain even before the dentist touches me.
  • I have cried at a dentist’s office because of my fear.
  • I sense pain just hearing someone discuss a dental visit.
  • I am embarrassed because of my dental fears and suffer through dental care rather than mention it to my dentist or dental caregiver.
  • I am unhappy with the health and/or appearance of my smile but accept it rather than see a dentist.

What to look for in a dental office

Taking small steps at a comfortable pace is how most patients conquer dental fears and phobia. The following tips can help you find the dental office that is right for your needs…

  • Visit the dentist’s web site. Look at images of the office’s interior, services, and comfort options. Look, also, for reviews from patients who once had dental fears.
  • If you cannot make the call yourself, have a friend or family member call and ask: “Is the dentist trained and experienced in treating fearful patients?”; “What comfort options are available?”; “Do they offer a consultation so fearful patients can get to know the dentist before scheduling an exam?”; “Where does the consultation take place? (In a private consultation room or in a treatment chair?)”
  • Consider visiting the office after hours. Become familiar with the location and building’s appearance. Walk to the door and look in.
  • Ask to begin with a consultation. This visit should take place in a private, closed room. If the visit must take place in a treatment room, it may be best to look for another office.
  • The dentist should listen without rushing you and answer your questions in easy-to-understand terms. You should leave feeling reassured about the dentist’s commitmentto your comfort.
  • Ask about sedation. While nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’) is common for relaxation, Oral or I.V. sedation may be more appropriate for your needs.
  • When any sedation is used, ask about safety monitoring equipment and training of staff members who will be assisting the dentist. Your safety is as important as your comfort.

Helpful features

In our office, we have found that certain features also help patients with dental fears or anxiety. These include:

WELL-MANAGED APPOINTMENTS: A long wait in a reception area can allow anxiety to build. We are committed to seeing patients within 10 minutes of their appointed time.

RELAXING DISTRACTIONS: When patients listen to music or watch a movie during treatment, the focus is often taken off the procedure.

GOOD COMMUNICATION: While some patients prefer to be distracted from what’s taking place in their mouths, others feel more confident knowing each step. For those, we keep patients informed of what we are doing and use monitors to show images of areas being treated.

COMMITTED TEAM: Our entire office is ONE when it comes to a welcoming, respectful, and compassionate environment for patients, especially those with dental fears

Sedation in dentistry

In addition to many relaxing features in our office, we make Oral and I.V. sedation available.

ORAL SEDATION is in pill form and taken once arriving to our office. Rather quickly, you will begin to feel very relaxed. We seat you in a comfortable treatment chair and cover you with a blanket as the pill takes full effect. You may doze off but will remain able to respond to questions.

I.V. SEDATION (twilight sleep) provides a deeper level of sedation than Oral Sedation.
This is a more reassuring option for those preferring a sleep state. However, it does require a longer recovery period than Oral Sedation.

Both medications erase most or all memory of the procedure afterward. And, with both, numbing the areas being treated is delayed until the patient is fully ‘under.’ With both options, you are monitored by trained staff using advanced safety equipment to ensure your safety and comfort.

In addition to sedation, we enhance comfort with options such as topical numbing before injections and ergonomically-designed treatment chairs. These features help to relax patients and make them more comfortable through- out any procedure.

We also utilize modern dental techniques and advanced technology that greatly enhance patient comfort and reduce time in treatment.

Yet, without a relationship of trust, these advancements do little to help fearful patients overcome dental fears. Your trust in us will be the result of positive experiences at each visit as you realize our goal is to provide optimal comfort at every visit.

Not only are we structured to help fearful patients move at a comfortable pace, you’ll enjoy a setting where your concerns are truly respected in a ‘lecture free’ zone.

Regardless of the comfort option you select, it’s important to choose a dentist that is right for you.

For some, just making the appointment and getting in the door is a challenging process. Before calling our Shelby Township dental office, two short videos you may enjoy are:

Dr. Barbat – Intro to Sedation Dentistry

Dr. Barbat – Intro to Advanced Technology

Once you are ready to schedule a consultation, call 586-739-2155. In our office, there is no charge for consultations. We’ll meet privately in a room that is removed from the clinical area.

I chose the dental profession because of the positive difference a healthy, attractive smile has on each person, inside and out! Yet, my most rewarding moments occur when a once-fearful patient walks in all smiles and sedation is no longer a need!

If dental fears prevent you from a beautiful, healthy smile, remember that every journey begins with a first step. Call 586-739-2155 to learn more or tap here to request a free consultation via our web site:

You may also want to download our helpful guide on dental fear: “Guide For The Fearful Dental Patient.”



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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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