It might sound something out of a kid movie, but dental phobia is as real as any other fear. In fact, a recent poll found that 9 to 15 percent of the American population cites fear and anxiety as their main reason for avoiding a trip to the dentist. That’s approximately 40 million Americans who choose to suffer in silence from tooth decays and gum diseases instead of going to the dentist.

Of course, these fears find little basis. Modern dental procedures are mainly painless, thanks to major advancements in dental sedation.

If your kid or someone you know would rather pull their own teeth than go to a nearby dentist for treatment, here are some ways in which you can help overcome their fear of the dentist.

Research your dentist

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. Likewise, researching the dentist’s professional experience and presenting it to those who suffer dental phobia can help them understand that they will be in good, capable hands. You can also try asking your friends and neighbors about their experiences with their own dentist and gain a referral from them.

After all, it will be much easier to convince a person with dental phobia to believe that a particular dentist is capable if they can see and hear about a previous patient’s (i.e., a neighbor or friend who recommends the dentist) satisfactory dental experience.

Take time to look around the dentist’s office

Does the office look like a chamber of horrors? Sometimes, a quick talk with the dentist at his or her office can help patients gain a sense of control over their crippling fear. Most dentists understand that there are people who are quite afraid of opening their mouths to a complete stranger, which is why they know how to put their patients at ease.

It is indeed advantageous for the dentist to take the time to explain and answer all of the patient’s nagging questions about the dental procedures that they offer. Procedures go smoother with patients free of anxieties, which can be manifested through physical behaviors, such as fidgeting.

Just be open with your dentist and talk about your fear with them. Don’t be embarrassed. Remember, there are millions of people who share the same fears as you. You are not the first nor the last patient to ever feel crippling anxiety when visiting a dentist. However, talking about it with your dentist can ultimately help put your mind at ease because clear and open communication can help your dentist make your experience more pleasant and comfortable.