Did you know that roughly 36% of people in the United States have dentophobia, a fear of the dentist? There is a similar condition called odontophobia, which is the fear of the orthodontist. Though there aren’t reliable statistics on how many people have odontophobia, many believe it to be similar to those with dentophobia. Some even use the terms interchangeably! We say all this to reassure you that any nerves you feel about attending your dental appointments, whether mild or severe, are normal! However, at Buttram Orthodontics, we don’t want anyone in our Panama City community to postpone or avoid necessary dental work altogether because of fear. So, today we will share our top tips to help with dental anxiety at the orthodontist (or dentist)!
What Is An Orthodontist, And Why Do I Need One?
Understanding why you need to attend your orthodontic appointments can help you feel motivated to overcome your anxieties, so before we discuss soothing techniques, let’s talk about what an orthodontist is!
An orthodontist is a dentist who continues their education after dental school to specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, management, and correction of mal-positioned teeth and jaws and dentofacial conditions. Their additional training teaches them how to safely and effectively make misalignment and growth development corrections so patients of various ages and orthodontic needs can have functional, healthy, and flattering bites and smiles.
If your dentist referred you to an orthodontist, your teeth and/or jaw need assistance to become the best they can be. When executed correctly, orthodontic care can improve your mental, physical, and oral well-being!
Why Do People Have Odontophobia?
There are a few reasons why you could be scared of dental professionals. One common reason is a generalized anxiety disorder, but it’s not the only reason. Another possible reason is parents with dental anxiety sometimes teach their children to fear dental appointments. Other reasons include:
- Fear of pain
- Uncomfortable with the loss of control
- Friends or family members had poor experiences with a similar procedure
- Overwhelmed senses (unfamiliar noises, people, materials, tools, et cetera)
- Trouble breathing
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear one problem might reveal more or be worse than initially thought
- And more!
How Can I Help My Phobia?
Fortunately, there are a few ways to address this fear and help you attend critical procedures and checkups! While we can’t promise these tips will remove your phobia altogether, they can help you remain calm so you get the care you need. Let’s check them out!
When you schedule or check-in for your appointment, we encourage you to be honest with us about the anxiety you or your child might be feeling. Honesty allows us to prepare so you can have the best experience possible. For example, advance notice permits us time to ensure you are treated by specific team members that make you feel comfortable or who have more experience dealing with anxiety.
If the patient is a child, we also encourage parents and guardians to be honest with them about their upcoming appointments. Being truthful with your child about the appointment and what it will entail allows them to ask questions and learn more about orthodontic work, hopefully easing their fear of the unknown. It also gives them plenty of advance time to address their feelings and learn how to overcome them.
Bring People Or Things That Bring You Comfort
Taking your mind off the triggering event or moment can help you work through your fear and maintain a level of calmness during a frightening situation. We strongly encourage all anxious patients to consider bringing stuff to their appointment that brings comfort or acts as a distraction.
Popular items are stress balls to squeeze, fidget toys to play with, and headphones to listen to music. Other comfort items you or your child can bring include a small stuffed animal, a soft hoodie, or a favorite book!
Some patients find having a friend or parent come into the room to talk while Dr. Buttram works calming. It can remind you that you are safe and not alone and give you something else to focus on throughout the appointment. Letting us know you’re anxious allows us to approach the social part of your appointment in a way that is most beneficial and comfortable for you.
Mindfulness is the practice of sitting with feelings that make you uncomfortable and trying to be okay with them. This emotional tool is a great one to master and can help you in many aspects of life, even outside the Buttram Orthodontics office!
An effective mindfulness technique is to regulate your breathing intentionally. The following is an example of a mindfulness exercise you can do during your appointment.
🦷 Find a rectangle in the room, such as a window or a large poster.
🦷 Trace the edges with your eyes.
🦷 Breathe out on the long edges and in on the short edges.
If you cannot see a rectangle, breathe in and out at four counts each.
We suggest mindfulness during procedures when you or your child cannot interact with the comfort items or a guest. If our team is aware of your stress, we can keep an eye on your breathing, and when other techniques are not working, we can give you space to perform the above method or other mindfulness exercises.
Note: You can even download mindfulness apps onto your favorite mobile device that you can utilize before, during, or after your appointment. However, we recommend becoming familiar with one or two mindfulness exercises before your session if you cannot interact with your device.
Take Breaks & Ask Questions
If our team notices your breathing is irregular or you appear highly stressed, we will ask if you want a break. Breaks can give you time to recenter and relax by using your comfort items, talking to your trusted guest, or performing other mindfulness techniques, such as counting the floor or ceiling tiles!
Our team also encourages you to ask for breaks if you need one! Remember, if you’re stressed or anxious, there’s no need to “tough it out”! Don’t worry about feeling inconvenient or not “tough”! There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, especially if it helps you. Your comfort and confidence during your appointment are important to us at Buttram Orthodontics! If your visit is unpleasant, you will continue to associate the orthodontist with scary things, which could prevent you from getting the care you need in the future or completing your current program. We are always happy to give you a moment to relax.
During your break or other times in your appointment, don’t hesitate to ask questions about what we’re doing or your treatment program. Information can help remove the fear of the unknown and help you recognize that orthodontic procedures aren’t intimidating.
Find Out How Buttram Orthodontics Can Help With Your Dental Anxiety!
Please contact us to learn more about how Buttram Orthodontics can help patients with anxiety! Our helpful front desk team would love to explain any services or procedures we have that can help you get the care you need!
Please remember that Buttram Orthodontics is not here to judge you. We aim to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile that does not involve passing unnecessary or unfair judgment on you! We take pride in having a welcoming team and inviting environment to help as many people as possible in Panama City and surrounding areas!
When you’re ready, you can schedule a free consultation with us to begin your orthodontic journey.