Dental Phobia

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A phobia is an irrational fear of a certain situation, object or activity which leads the sufferer to avoid it at all costs. For patients with phobias, being exposed to the situation or object of which they are afraid leads to severe anxiety and in more severe cases physical symptoms like panic attacks. Due to their intrusive nature, phobias can often impact on different areas of the sufferer’s life, causing them a great deal of stress. If you have a dental phobia, you are likely to spend a lot of time worrying about your teeth and dental visits.

Dental phobias are serious problems and affect a great many people. In the more severe cases, dental phobics will avoid going to the dentist even when they have developed serious oral health issues. Because of this avoidance, many dental phobics do not know how to properly care for their teeth and because they avoid visiting the dentist, this creates a vicious cycle of problems. Many dental phobics experience problems with their gums such as inflammation and disease. It is vital that you visit your dentist at least twice a year so that any potential problems can be diagnosed before they become serious. Luckily for dental phobics, new dental technologies are geared toward comfort and efficiency meaning there are more options for non-invasive treatment than ever before.

Causes of Dental Phobias

No two cases of dental phobias are exactly the same. There are a number of reasons why someone experiences anxiety towards dental check ups. In some cases, a bad experience involving dentistry early on in life can put patients off and for others it is as simple as the 'clinical' smell of the dental surgery. Some dental phobics fixate on their embarrassment about the condition of their teeth and are afraid of what the dentist will say to them or the treatment that they will need to undergo to fix their problem. Similarly, some patients experience a 'gag reflex' when dental tools are placed in their mouths, or develop problems breathing.

Realising you have a phobia is the first stage in defeating it. Your dentist will attempt to aid you in overcoming your fears with a number of methods. Explaining the procedure for your treatment is important, often just understanding the methods involved can help to relieve some of the fear. It is vital that you express any concerns or fears about your treatment and if you feel that the staff or dentist are not sympathetic to your needs, then seek out alternative care.

Relaxation and distraction techniques are now routinely used to help fearful or anxious patients such as music, DVD goggles or hypnotherapy. Also, new innovations in dentistry mean that needles and drills can often be substituted for less invasive tools. Similarly, when applying local anaesthetics, your dentist can now use a specialised gel which will numb the area prior to injection. Many patients are fearful of needles, but a great dental innovation called 'The Wand' can often be used to deliver a local anaesthetic to the target area without the need for injection. In more serious cases of dental phobia, sedatives may be used to place patients into a relaxed state.

Good dental health is as important to your well being as the health of any other part of your body. There are many problems and diseases which can affect the teeth and gums, and thus it is vitally important for a person to attend regular dental check-ups and have any necessary treatment and procedures to ensure good dental health.

These are facts that are generally well known and accepted. Yet for many people a visit to the dentist is something to be avoided at best, and a traumatic experience at worst. This negative reaction can often come from suffering from dental phobia. A phobia is, simply put, a powerful and consistent fear that drives the sufferer to avoid what it is they fear, and in the case of dental phobia, the object of this fear is something to do with a visit to the dentist.

Reasons for Dental Phobia

Like all phobias, there are some general reasons behind dental phobia. You may suffer because of a previous bad experience at the dentist that perhaps occurred during childhood. Another issue is the foreign environment of a dental surgery which can often feel uncomfortable and scary. We are all familiar with the fairly hospital like appearance of a dental surgery and the sight of a dentist’s tools which can appear quite daunting, these can be major factors in dental phobia, which is why more modern dentists now opt for a friendlier decor to make their clinics more friendly.

You can simply be either more sensitive to pain or fearful of it, and the cause of this sensitivity can be physiological, but more often than not, it is in fact a psychological reaction to the widely held misconception that a dentist’s office is a place of pain. There is a cultural view of dentistry as something to be feared, and in some cases this social norm can strike deeper, affecting people quite profoundly. An unsympathetic dentist can put you off as well, and make you even less likely to return for future treatment. 

There can, however, be many specific reasons for a phobia. It is common for any of us to be phobic for more than one reason; there can be many contributing factors. Thus truly understanding the phobia and dealing with it can be an extremely complex business. It is also true that sometimes you simply do not know why they have a dental phobia or they are unable to pinpoint a single reason or cause. This being said there are also a number of common reasons for dental phobia, and in brief these include:

  • Fear of Anaesthesia – Anaesthesia is the practice of ensuring that a patient is appropriately sedated for a medical procedure. Many people can feel uncomfortable with receiving anaesthesia, whether because they are uncertain of its long term effects or uncomfortable with an injection being applied to their gums, this can be a key part of dental phobia.
  • Fear of Choking – As dental work involves a dentist working in your open mouth, many people, particularly those suffering from a previous choking experience, suffer from a fear of choking that translates into dental phobia.
  • Fear of Diagnosis – Being diagnosed as suffering from any kind of dental problem, particularly those involving several treatments and the potential extraction of teeth for example, can be a cause for dental phobia. The prospect of dental illness can be daunting, whether because of fear of treatment or potential embarrassment.
  • Fear of the Drill – The dental drill is possibly the most infamous tool in a dentist’s arsenal. Everything about the drill, from its function to its appearance and sound can be daunting for a patient, and can, understandably, be a source of dental phobia.
  • Fear of Pain – Dental procedures can be associated with pain, and it’s not a surprise that many of us aren’t too keen on that aspect of oral hygiene. Whether because of past experiences or the commonly held perception of pain in dental health, the fear of pain can be a major contributory factor in keeping people out of a dentist’s chair.
  • Fear of Future Dental Work – One dentist appointment can lead to another, and potentially a long series of treatments which anyone suffering from dental phobia will desperately want to avoid.

Fear of Anaesthesia & Dental Phobia »

Guide to Dental Phobia