Is fear of dentists for real?

Fear is the response of a person to a danger or threatening situation to protect one’s life.

“Dental fear or anxiety is a person’s specific reaction towards stress associated with dental treatment in which the stimulus is unknown, vague or not present at the moment”.

If you are one of those who agree to this, read on…..

Dental anxiety is very common worldwide and is not limited to any community or country!!! You are not the only one who has dental anxiety. Hope that makes you fell better!!!

Some of you are probably scared of the very thought of visiting the dentist. This could be because of

  • any past unpleasant experiences with your dentist, or
  • an unpleasant incident your neighbour or friend has narrated to you, or
  • any content that you might have read on social media the shows the profession in negative light.
  • Unpleasant childhood experiences of dental treatment can also contribute to your fear.
  • Traumatic past experiences with doctors in general.
  • Dental fear could be more common in women.

Dental anxiety is difficult for your dentist too. Many dentists have confirmed that an anxious patients compromise their dental practices. This can affect the patient-dentist relationship leading to misdiagnosis. On your part, your apprehensions can make you postpone or cancel dental appointments, or even avoid treatment completely. This can lead to poor oral hygiene, more decayed missing and lesser filled teeth. The poor oral health can affect your social life. Treating an anxious patient is more time consuming and frustrating for the dentist. You may end up unsatisfied with the treatment.

There are many terms used to describe dental anxiety. It can be known as dental fear, dental phobia, dentist phobia, odontophobia, or dentophobia. They all mean the same thing: an intense fear of visiting the dentist for dental care.

Although all the above terms are used interchangeably, dental phobia is a severe type of dental anxiety. A phobia is an intense, unreasonable fear. Dental phobia can include fear of dental procedures, dental setting, fear of dental instruments or fear of dentist as a person. Any objects like the drill, or injections can invoke fear. People with dental phobia often avoid the dentist and neglect oral health, which may lead to painful dental problems and ultimately force a visit to the dentist. This emergency situation may worsen the phobia. This is called the” cycle of dental fear “.

How do you know if you are anxious?

Everyone has fears and concerns about dental treatment procedures. You may feel any one or more of these emotions

  •  feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam.
  •  get increasingly nervous while you’re in the waiting room.
  •  feel like crying when you think of going to the dentist.
  • the sight of dental instruments, personnel in uniforms, smell associated with hospitals increases your anxiety.
  • the thought of a dental visit makes you feel physically ill.
  •  panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental examination.

 

What is the treatment of Dentophobia?

By and large most of the dental procedures are PAINLESS. Routine dental procedures like an examination, fillings or scaling are painless. With huge advancement in technology, high speed equipments and better clinical skills, even the advanced treatment procedures like tooth removal, RCT, implant placements are comfortable procedures.

Your dentist can help you overcome your anxiety. Talk to your health care provider about your fear and concerns. A good dentist will sit with you to address your concerns and explain the treatment procedures beforehand. However, if you are phobic, there are several ways to treat it with behavioural modification techniques to medications.

  • Your dentist will help you overcome your fear. He may work with a psychologist to provide you with the skills and tools to manage and combat dental phobia.
  • Positive reinforcement techniques. Praising a patient after a successful dental appointment is a huge confidence booster. This reduces fear and makes you more confident for the next dental visit.
  • Relaxation techniques can also be used to reduce fear. Deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help you to relax while in the dentist’s chair.
  • Systematic desensitization is a technique employed by psychologists to reduce anxiety and phobias. In this method you will be gradually exposed to the object of your fear until are able to combat the fear without assistance.
  • In children, your dentist may follow the “Tell, Show, Do” technique. Here, your dentist will first explain the procedure to the child, show to the child the procedure done on another child who acts as the role model and then carry on the procedure.
  • Use of medication. This can range from mild sedatives to general anaesthesia. Your dentist can use laughing gas to sooth your nerves. He may prescribe anti anxiety drugs in some cases. With these methods you are responsive, alert and will be able to communicate with your dentist, while your dentist carries out the treatment seamlessly.

There could be some initiative from your end in this regard

  • Do some research with your friends and neighbours about the pleasant experiences they have had with their dentists. This may help you choose your dentist.
  • Meet your dentist or the hygienist prior to your scheduled appointment and discuss with them about your anxiety. you can familiarise yourself with the setting and the treatment procedure.
  • Carry a comforting object like a squeeze ball, a book or magazine to the dental office.
  • You can listen to comforting music of your choice while in the waiting area.

Think positive!!! You will have a successful dental appointment.