If you are afraid of going to the dentist, you are not alone. Research indicates that as many as 75% of adults are to some extent, fearful of the dentist and that 5 to 10% have full-blown “dentophobia”.
How afraid are you?
Dental Anxiety is very common and most easily overcome. It occurs most often when a patient is about to have something done that he or she has never before experienced. It is usually driven by a fear of the unknown.
Dental Fear is a reaction to something the patient knows about and feels threatened by but does not necessarily interfere with the dental work actually getting done.
Dental Phobia is like Dental Fear, only much more intense and more often than not prevents necessary dental treatment from getting done. Dental Phobia can actually be measured with tools such as the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale which you can download here.
Common causes of Dental Phobia
The most common causes of Dental Phobia include:
- Bad experiences at a dentist’s office, which can include painful visits or being humiliated. Horrific dentist experiences can even trigger Post-Traumatic Stress, thereby worsening the Dental Phobia
- A history of abuse, sexual abuse or a history of being bullied
- A cold or uncaring dentist
- Observational learning (e.g. children watching fearful parents, movies about bad dental experiences, etc.)
- Inherent fears or fears than have naturally been learned over millions of years (e.g. of snakes, heights, pointy or sharp objects, etc.)
Is there help and hope?
Absolutely. While some mild cases of Dental Anxiety and Fear can be treated more easily, a caring and compassionate dentist who is knowledgeable about Dental Phobia can make all of the difference in the world in helping a patient overcome his or her condition. Here is a quick summary of some of the approaches that I have found to be successful with my patients:
- Noise-cancellation headphones
- Visual and audio distractions like the tvs in our ceilings which can be used in conjunction with the headphones
- Good communication, so everyone knows in advance what will be done and what to expect
- Oral sedatives to calm a patient prior to being treated
- Nitrous Oxide (also known as laughing gas)
- Air Abrasion – which can in some cases be utilized instead of a drill
- Topical anaesthetics which can be used to numb an area prior to an injection
- Writing down fears and then discussing them with your dentist
- Break the cycle of fear
- As is the case with any fear or anxiety, the more a person avoids what frightens him or her, the worse that fear becomes. So, if your fear is keeping you away from the dentist, start exploring ways to empower yourself and take control of your dental health today.
As this article affords me only limited space to address this very important subject, I highly recommend you visiting this excellent website, a wonderful resource dedicated solely to dental-related phobias, fears and anxieties.
So if you are experiencing any oral pain or discomfort, or simply haven’t a check-up or cleaning in quite some time, give us a call. Even our most frightened of patients have been pleasantly surprised during and after their appointments. We keep them comfortable, happy and actually laughing!
Steven Deskin is a Dentist in general practice.