The majority of your preventative dental care takes place at home, in the form of brushing, flossing, and being mindful of how your diet affects the integrity of your teeth. This is unlikely to be sufficient for entirely preventing all dental problems, which is where the importance of your regular dental checkups enters the equation. Unfortunately, you might not be quite so diligent about those checkups if going to the dentist triggers a mild case of odontophobia (which is the official name for a dentist-related phobia).

Scaling and Polishing

Sure, it's quite natural to feel some apprehension when you require a major procedure, no matter how necessary it might be. But what about scaling and polishing? This is essentially professional cleaning and is vital for removing the dental calculus (tartar) that cannot be shifted with at-home care and that can degrade your teeth while contributing to gingivitis. Why do scaling and polishing make some people uncomfortable?

The Physical Sensation

For those affected by a mild case of odontophobia, scaling and polishing can be distressing because of the physical sensation of the procedure. Whether the scaling is performed using a manual tool or a tool with a rotating bur, the vibrations caused by the scaling can be unpleasant. It doesn't actually hurt (your dental enamel doesn't have any nerves), and it might seem like overkill to request anesthetic for something as straightforward as a scaling. So what are your options? You want to acknowledge your discomfort while also recognizing the importance of dental scaling, and skipping your regular dental checkups shouldn't be an option. 

Air and Water

Ask your dentist if they offer air polishing. This utilizes a combination of water and baking soda, directed at your teeth in a way that is abrasive enough to dislodge plaque and tartar while not causing the same physical sensation as manual scaling and polishing. This can be extremely beneficial for those with mild odontophobia, as it minimizes the physical contact your dentist or dental hygienist makes with your teeth while still scaling and polishing your teeth in a way that offers a high level of efficiency. The scraping sensations associated with a manual tool and the vibrations associated with an electric tool will not be an issue with air polishing.

Scaling and polishing are integral parts of preventative dental care, and a mild case of odontophobia shouldn't prevent you from receiving this care. But when the physical sensations of scaling and polishing can trigger your odontophobia, ask about air polishing.