Fear of Feeling Powerless & Dental Phobia


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A phobia can often develop from a feeling of being powerless, and unfortunately a dentist’s chair can be, for some, a setting in which that feeling is not uncommon.

Feelings of powerlessness while in the dentist’s chair

A person who is used to controlling their environment and making their own decisions can be surprised by how limiting sitting in a dentist’s chair can be. Putting themselves into the care of a dentist can be terrifying for such people as they feel as if they have no control over the situation. Their fear can be exacerbated if a dentist fails to communicate what is happening clearly enough or if the dentist does not react quickly enough to the patients anxiety.

Particular aspects of dental treatment such as having an anaesthetic can be especially terrifying in this instance due to the feeling of vulnerability they create and thus the lack of control and power is enhanced. This aspect can be particularly difficult to treat as the patient often does not know what they are scared of or even that they are scared. The fear presents itself by the fact that the patient becomes very argumentative and demanding which becomes more pronounced the more anxious and agitated the patient is. It can even lead to avoiding the dentist and thereby have long term effect on oral health.

Dealing with feelings of powerlessness

The onus when dealing with this particular kind of phobia lies with the dentist more than the patient. A lot can be achieved by adopting a calm and reassuring manner when dealing with patients who are obviously agitated and becoming increasingly aggressive. With some sufferers however, this may not be enough. In these cases counselling can be extremely helpful, providing much needed support in dealing with any potential underlying issues.

Otherwise there is a lot a dentist can do to work with a patient’s fear of powerlessness. These techniques are broadly described as Behaviour Management, and revolve around shaping a patient’s experience, allowing them to become more comfortable and confident in a dentistry setting. Atmosphere is key in achieving this, a calm and smoothly run dental clinic and generate a lot of confidence in its patients. Furthermore the dentist’s conduct and manner of speaking can be critical. If your dentist explains everything to you, step by step, in a reassuring way, you will undoubtedly feel less anxious.


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