7 Strategies for Getting Over Your Fear of Going to the Dentist

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be painful.

Most people could probably name a million things they’d rather do than go to the dentist. The idea that dental work is painful and even torturous is deeply embedded in popular culture. For example, in the hit ABC series “Scandal,” an ex-CIA operative named Huck removes a woman’s molar without an anesthetic to extract information. In perhaps the most famous dentistry-as-torture scene, in the 1976 movie “Marathon Man,” a Nazi war criminal inflicts dental agony on Dustin Hoffman’s character. Fortunately, such torture is rare in real life, but many people avoid going to the dentist “until they have a problem,” says Dr. Cherae M. Farmer-Dixon, dean of the School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. “There’s a stigma associated with the dentist, and I think it stems from the fear of pain,” she says. “I’ve had patients tell me that their toothache hurts worse than giving birth. Oral pain is very real, but if you see a dentist regularly, many of the painful issues can be prevented. Additionally, thanks to advances in technology, for many, dentistry can be a pain-free experience.” It’s crucial to take care of your teeth and gums with regular dental appointments, since your oral health affects your overall well-being. Here are seven strategies for mitigating the physical and psychological discomfort associated with going to the dentist:

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