Most people feel some level of anxiety about going to the dentist. Sooner or later, however, patients need to get over our fears and get the dental care they need. For some people, however, that's easier said than done. What can dental phobia sufferers do to reduce the fear of climbing into the dentist's chair? 

Do research

Many fears of the dentists' office come from images of whirring drills and sharp dental implements. Many of these are images from films and television rather than from reality; modern dentistry is much less fearsome. Modern dental technology has eliminated many of the things patients fear the most; painful drills can be replaced with air abrasion, while anaesthetic gel or modern "wands" take the pain out of injections. Taking some time to study the realities of modern dental procedures will help dispel some of the mystery and prepare the patient for a visit. 

Talk about it

No one knows more about dealing with fear of the dentist than an actual dentist. Patients who talk with their dentists about their fears can work out solutions, including distress signals and agreements on what to avoid. Most dentists have extensive experience dealing with nervous patients, but they can't help if they don't know what the problem is. Every patient's fears are different: some fear the drill, while others hate having mirrors or other tools in their mouths. Some people fear the feeling of helplessness caused by a reclining dentist's chair. 

Be realistic

Some patients think of general anaesthetic as the solution to their nervousness; if they're not awake, they reason, they won't be able to panic. However, this isn't likely. Doctors put patients under general anaesthetic only when it's absolutely necessary; few dental procedures justify the expense and risk (however minor) of general anaesthesia.

Look for a specialist

Dentists quickly gain experience in dealing with nervous patients, but for some dentists they're a specialist field. Dental phobia specialists may use relaxation techniques such as meditation or hypnosis to help their patients overcome their fears, as well as working out communication plans and adjusting aspects of the experience to help patients relax. 

The first time is fine

As with many phobias, information about dental care helps dispel anxiety about going to the dentist. One of the most important sources of this information is a dental checkup. In almost every case, a new patient's first visit to the dentist will be an evaluation and perhaps a cleaning—no drills, no injections and no cause for alarm.