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Taking The Fear Out of Dental Phobia



“Pain is so close to pleasure”, and “no pain, no gain” has been two examples of sadomasochistic clichés used to describe the punishing celebrity workouts of the narcissistic nineties, but thankfully not cosmetic dentistry.

The profession spends as much time on pain management as it does to crafting the perfect smile.

The industry is far removed from its origins in barbershops where you had both your hair cut and rotten teeth extracted – forcefully and without sedation.

Pain Phobia

Part of painless dentistry is removing the initial anxiety, or agliophobia, which is a phobia about pain.  The eradication of stress prior to any procedure is key to ensure the client can actually enjoy rather than endure the cosmetic and traditional dentistry experience even if there is a possibility of discomfort.

This is where educating the client and the use of language is very important.

Pushing Not Pulling

For example, one cosmetic dentist in The Philippines, when removing clients’ wisdom teeth, would tell them, “You are going to feel a little bit of pushing.”  He didn’t use the phrase “pushing and pulling”, he avoided more evocative words including “yanking” and at no time did he use the word “pain”.  And after a bit of pushing he would remove impacted wisdom teeth using a mild form of local anesthetic and clients swore they felt no discomfort whatsoever.

There are other solutions to reducing anxiety, and these are usually discovered in the pre-treatment consultation.

The Musical Antidote

The soporific, uplifting, and soothing power of music is one antidote to stress.  If a client reveals that works by Debussy or Adele comfort them, then tracks by those artists would be played prior to and during the procedure.  The pleasure from the listening may result in a rush of endorphins that relaxes and calms.

However, a client’s preference for Heavy Metal or Indie Rock could prove problematic if the playing of these genres results in ‘moshing’ or ‘headbanging’ which would make even the simplest procedure challenging.

Sniff and slow the heart rate

Similarly, some dental practices rely on olfactory or aromatherapy solutions, establishing which smells have positive associations for clients. Hence some clinics are scented with the aroma of essential oils including lavender, chamomile, and jasmine for the client’s pleasure and relaxation. As they enjoy the smell they breathe in deeply, which relaxes the body and lowers the heart rate.

There are always exceptions.  Some clients like dental clinics to smell like clinics, much preferring the smell of mouthwash to cinnamon or sandalwood.

Distracted by The Simpsons

There are always the tried and tested distraction techniques that assist relaxation.  And we’re not talking about the cruel “look over there” as you then try to wrestle with a stubborn bridge while the client isn’t looking.  That’s the stuff of comedy sketches.

It is better to engage the client visually with a plasma screen at eye level so a favorite channel can be selected, followed by total immersion in the latest moral dilemma being faced by the tenacious Homer Simpson.

There are many other stress-reduction solutions devoted to softening or eradicating the side effects of agliophobia, including hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and pharmaceuticals. Arguably one of the best medications, though, is laughter, making a visit to the dentist a pleasure without the pain.