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Are You Scared of the Dentist?


If you answered yes, I am scared of the dentist then you are with the majority of Americans. More than half of all people in the U.S. will never see a dentist for regular care, and the reason is they are scared. So, what is it that makes us so scared of the dentist? Is it the sound of the drill? Are we afraid that a cavity might be found? Are we afraid the hygienist will yell if we haven’t been flossing? Have we had a bad experience or heard of someone who has?

The answer to the question is, none of the above. Most people cannot tell you why they are scared of the dentist. The answer is usually, “Well, I just don’t like going.” Basically, we all saw “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Jaws” in the 80’s, and frankly we are just as afraid of sharks as we are of the dentist. You can thank Hollywood for that. We are afraid of something based on a story that we have heard or we have seen, not on actual experience, this is called vicarious learning.

So, just as we eventually gathered accurate information about the ocean to determine that it is safe to go back into the water, we also need to gather accurate information about the dentist. Knowledge is a powerful weapon. First, what degree would you rate your fear? Do you have mild anxiety before or during your appointment? Do you experience a high level of stress and emotional discomfort (manifesting as sweaty palms, nervousness, tears, etc.)? Or do you have a phobia: an intense fear so bad that you use avoidance to solve the problem? Secondly, think back to your personal history with the dentist. Why do you feel this particular level of stress specific to you?

Reasons for fearing the dentist could be fear of potential pain, fear of being scolded or judged about the condition of the mouth, teeth, or gums, or fear of loss of control during the treatment. Learning from why you have the fear can help us at Scottsdale Dental Arts to resolve it. For example, fear of potential pain helps to keep us safe and healthy. We have learned not to touch a hot stove because it will burn and harm us. Instinctively, we all know risky behaviors like jumping off a bridge will cause pain and harm thus, we avoid these behaviors. But, a regular check-up with the dentist may save you from having much more involved treatment down the road. A small filling is easier, quicker, and less painful than a root canal. So, in reality the risky behavior is waiting to see the dentist until you have pain instead of having routine exams.

In evaluation of the truth about pain and dentistry, it is concluded that most procedures are either completely painless or slightly uncomfortable. At Scottsdale Dental Arts, we want you to enjoy your dental experience. We have several benefits to make your experience more comfortable. Dr. McCargar offers sedative treatment options, and wants to work with you in choosing from a wide range of methods and medications that can help to alleviate anxiety, pain, and discomfort. At the dental office in Scottsdale we offer relaxing music, televisions in most rooms, and blankets if you are too cold. These are just some examples of ways that we care about your comfort.