Fear of Pain & Dental Phobia


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None of us like being in pain, and it is most definitely an experience that we try and avoid whenever possible. Dentistry has a rather unpleasant reputation as a painful discipline, and while this may not be the case for the majority of procedures and treatments, many people have experienced a painful dental experience, and if not, have at least heard of one, contributing to a fear of pain as a consequence of a trip to the dentist.

Pain and dentistry

Surprisingly enough pain is actually one of your body’s methods of self-preservation. If you are injured or hurt in anyway, the affected region triggers a neurological cascade that sends a signal to the brain to inform it of said damage, this signal is interpreted by the brain as pain. While most definitely unpleasant, pain is important as it tells us that we are injured and that we should stop whatever it is that is causing the pain.

Many aspects of dentistry do carry with them a risk of some pain. While a check up, for example, is a straightforward affair in which your dentist just has a look at how your teeth are doing, and is hence painless, root canals and tooth extractions can be quite painful. Your teeth and gums are rife with nerve endings that can send pain signals, and so it is no surprise that drilling and tinkering with them can be painful.

Fortunately letting a patient suffer through a procedure is not good practice, and all dentists will use some form of anaesthetic prior to a treatment that can be painful. An anaesthetic is a chemical agent that acts to block pain signals, and comes in one of two general forms. General anaesthetics leave you unconscious, while local anaesthetics only affect a specific region, numbing it for the duration of a procedure. The latter are more commonly used in dentistry, and an anaesthetic is applied to your teeth by means of an injection into your gums. The result is a numbed mouth in which you won’t feel any pain.

Fear of pain and dental phobia

Despite the use of anaesthetics, the fear of pain through dental procedures is still common place. In fact many people fear pain caused by the injection of the anaesthetic itself, and while that particular process involves a mild stinging, the effect of the injection quickly numbs your mouth.

Typically, as mentioned above, a fear of pain stems from a previous painful experience. This could have been, for example, because of your dentist starting his or her treatment before the anaesthetic has had a chance to kick in. You may have not responded as expected to the anaesthetic, meaning you were less numb than you should have been, or been refused local anaesthetic, or this is an extremely rare occurrence. You may have had the misfortune of a painful injection or procedure because of a less gentle dentist, or one who was less experienced and rushed the procedure, or a dentist who didn’t stop when you signalled that you were pain. At the end of the day, there are many aspects of dental care carry a risk of pain, and a fear of that can develop after an unpleasant experience.

That being said however, proper application of anaesthesia means that you won’t experience any pain. If you are afraid of the pain of having an anaesthetic injected into your gums, then there are cream or gel options which can anaesthetise your gums, numbing them before the injection of the anaesthetic needed for the procedure itself. Dealing with a fear of pain is tricky, but has definite rewards in that you will be able to visit your dentist as necessary without the stress of anticipating pain. Remember that avoiding a dental appointment out of the fear of pain can result in more pain in the long run as choosing not to treat pressing health issues can have a detrimental effect on your well being.


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