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Dental Anxiety - Topic Overview

Many people worry about going to the dentist. You may be very nervous and may actually feel sick to your stomach. Some people become so nervous that they just don't go to the dentist. But this can lead to serious problems, including infected gums and teeth, difficulty chewing, and lack of self-confidence because of bad teeth or bad breath.

To help get over being nervous about the dentist, it is helpful to first understand why you may be nervous. Reasons include:

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  • Having had a painful or bad experience at the dentist, including insensitive comments made during your visit. The smell of the office or seeing or hearing the dental tools (such as the sound of a drill) may bring this back.
  • Feeling helpless or out of control. Being confined to the chair and not being able to speak and communicate may cause this. The precautions your dentist takes, such as wearing a mask and gloves, may add to this feeling.
  • Being embarrassed about the condition of your teeth.
  • Hearing about others' bad experiences at the dentist or being influenced by how TV, newspapers, or magazines portray them.
  • Fearing the unknown, including the procedures your dentist uses.

To help feel less nervous about a dental visit, try the following:

  • Talk about your fears. Tell your dentist that you are nervous, and try to explain why. This way your dentist can do everything possible to put you at ease.
  • Ask your dentist about what is going to happen and why. If you understand the steps of getting a filling, for example, you may feel less nervous about it. Ask your dentist to tell you when he or she is moving from one step in a procedure to another step.
  • Make your dental visit at a time when you are not rushed or under pressure. An early morning, late afternoon, or Saturday may be the best time, as you may not have to worry about missing school or work.
  • If the sound of a drill bothers you, ask your dentist if he or she has music and headphones. If not, bring your own audio player and headphones.
  • Agree on hand signals to communicate pain, discomfort, or the need for a break.
  • Use relaxation techniques. As you sit in the chair, try deep breathing or thinking about a favorite activity or place.
  • Don't be afraid to switch dentists. If you talk to your dentist and feel that he or she is not listening or not making an effort to help you feel at ease, try another dentist. Tell your friends about your fears, and ask them about their dentists.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 07, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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