I have a terrible fear of going to the dentist yet I recognize the importance of seeing the dentist to maintain good oral health. What should I do?

If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9 percent and 15 percent of Americans state they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. The first thing you should do is talk with your dentist. In fact, if your dentist doesn’t take your fear seriously, find another dentist. The key to coping with dental anxiety is to discuss your fears with your dentist. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable.

The good news is that today there are a number of strategies that can be tailored to the individual to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. These strategies include use of medicines (to either numb the treatment area or sedatives or anesthesia to help you relax), use of lasers instead of the traditional drill for removing decay, application of a variety of mind/body pain and anxiety-reducing techniques (such as guided imagery, biofeedback and deep breathing, acupuncture, mental health therapies), and perhaps even visits to a dentophobia clinic or a support group.

Posted in: General Dentistry