Dental phobia is common. A phobia is an irrational fear of something that most people find completely harmless.
About dental phobia
Dental phobia affects many people and there are several different causes; symptoms of dental phobia include sweating and feeling very anxious when faced with a trip to the dentist, accelerated heart rate and experiencing ‘butterflies in the tummy’, being filled with dread and feeling very negative about going to the dentist. In some cases, people with dental phobia are so anxious and worried, that they avoid going to the dentist for long periods of time, despite the fact that dentists recommend check-ups every 6 months and researchers have linked poor oral health to an increased risk of general health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Avoiding regular check-ups puts oral and general health at risks and many people find that the longer they leave it, the worse their anxiety gets. Many patients with dental phobia have not been to a dentist for more than 5 years.
What causes dental phobia?
There are many reasons why people may suffer from dental phobia. Some patients have specific phobias, which make going to the dentist very difficult and nerve-wracking; these include fears of needles, injections, pain, the dental drill and loss of control. A common cause of dental phobia is negative experiences in the past; this may mean having a dentist you didn’t get on with, suffering a painful procedure or experiencing complications after treatment, for example. Even a patient who has simply not undergone holistically focused treatment could be scared, for more about the holistic approach click here.
Some people dread going to the dentist because they have a negative perception of dentists, which may stem from an experience in the past, word of mouth and other people’s experiences or stories in the media. Another common problem is that people worry about the state of their oral health and are embarrassed or scared to see a dentist because it is likely that they will need further treatment; this is often the case when a patient has left it a long time since their last check-up.
Psychology plays an important role in phobias; many people go to the dentist without any problems and in most cases, a check-up is completely harmless and over in a flash. The problem for many people is that they build up the appointment, the treatment or the scenario so that it becomes a much bigger deal than it is and this increases anxiety and makes it harder for patients to bite the bullet and see their dentist.
What do dentists do to help phobic patients?
Dentists are trained to care for phobia patients and many have additional qualifications in providing treatment for patients with dental phobia. Dentists can use a variety of techniques, from talking and discussing problems with patients and recommending therapies such as hypnotherapy, to using innovative treatments, such as painless injections, Waterlase therapy and sedation.
Many patients feel instantly reassured if they know that their dentist is willing to listen and talk to them about their phobia; there is a common belief among phobics that dentists will simply rubbish their worries and think that they are overreacting, but this is not the case and the vast majority of dentists are very understanding.
Hypnotherapy is becoming an increasingly popular treatment for people with phobias; it trains the mind to work in a different way so that people can overcome their fears and rationalise the situation.
Dental treatments for phobia patients have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and dentists have a whole arsenal at their disposal; from painless injections to sedation. Sedation is a very beneficial treatment for nervous patients because it prevents them from feeling any pain or experiencing the procedure properly; it does not make you lose consciousness, but it does make you feel relaxed. Sedation can be administered in different ways, including intravenously, orally or via inhalation.