If a loved one is skipping routine checkups from the dentist or living with a painful oral health problem, it may be a sign that they have dental anxiety. It’s important to support them and encourage them to go to the dentist, however, recognizing and identifying their fear is the first step to helping them overcome their fear.
How to recognize fear of the dentist in loved ones
As mentioned before, recognizing a fear of the dentist is the first step in helping your loved ones overcome it. It’s important to understand that their perceived stubbornness or laziness to make an appointment may stem from anxiety.
Common signs of dental fear:
If your loved one does one or many of the following before an appointment with the dentist, they may be experiencing common signs of dental fear:
- Scheduling an appointment and canceling about a day before with no rescheduled date.
- Skipping the scheduled appointment altogether.
- Hiding in the bathroom or leaving before the appointment.
- Presenting with anger or not wanting to talk before an appointment.
- Becoming irritated when dentist appointments are brought up.
- Living with a chronic oral health problem.
Avoidance can make dental anxiety worse
Unfortunately, avoiding the dentist can make dental anxiety worse. For example, if a loved one has a toothache that goes untreated, it may eventually lead to an infection which will need more invasive treatment. Therefore, avoiding the dentist in the first place may lead to a more traumatic experience in the long run. Encouraging your loved one to go to preventative dental checkups will not only improve their oral health but also keep them from having a bad experience.
Once you identify a fear of the dentist in someone you care about, it’s important to discuss it with them and find ways to support them. For ideas on how to help someone with dental anxiety, check out this article.
*Updated April 2023