Going to the dentist is one of the most common fear-inducing scenarios people face. Images of a dentist’s chair, stocked with sharp instruments, can be enough to send chills down the spine for many people. While most often associated with children, this overwhelming fear can strike any member of the family.
Without proper intervention, the fear of dentists can be enough for people to skip dental appointments, to the detriment of their dental health. Gum disease and tooth decay can escalate the risk of developing other conditions such as heart disease, underscoring the need for proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.
Given the importance of dental health, everyone should take steps to address any fears, especially for affected children who might otherwise fear dentists for life. Understanding more about the condition, including causes, symptoms, and the interventions that can mitigate its effects, is fundamental to ensure that you and your family receive the dental care that you deserve. Despite the powerful impulse to avoid dental clinics, thousands were able to conquer their fears and enjoy the services of understanding and effective dentists.
Anxiety Or Phobia?
First, it is crucial to assess the severity of the fear. As a general rule, anxieties are relatively common feelings of dread that are not strong enough to inhibit people from seeking the object. Many people show some aversion to going to the dentist as they associate it with painful dental procedures that they might have gone through in the past. However, these people are usually capable of sitting in the dentist’s chair and completing any procedures without much incident.
However, some people have a legitimate phobia of anything that has to do with dentistry. They will try all possible means to avoid going to the dentist. Even if they have severe tooth disorders that cause constant pain, these people will still refuse to go to the dentist. Especially for children, they might violently react when forced to see a dentist. These people have a dental phobia that they will have to deal with to ensure proper dental health.
It is easy to see in most cases if a person hates going to the dentist. However, some people such as children may show more subtle signs. For example, they might suddenly feel unwell as the day of the dentist appointment approaches. They might also lose some sleep on the night before the appointment, sometimes even several nights before the dreaded day. The induced fear acts as a stressor, which activates the fight-or-flight response. Thus, hallmark symptoms of stress such as fast heart rates, rapid breathing, pale discoloration, and sweating are also evident in people experiencing intense fear of the dentist.
Causes Of Dentophobia
The most common origin of dental phobia is the fear of pain. As mentioned earlier, many cases of dental phobia arise due to earlier traumatic experiences that may have caused a lot of pain. Perhaps the anesthetic used was not powerful enough, or the procedure took up too much time. While modern dentistry provides many ways to reduce pain, some discomfort is still unavoidable.
Other people fear the procedures themselves. They might cringe at the idea of poking needles or inserting metal instruments in their mouths. The drill, which emits a loud, high-pitched sound, may also be scary for some people. Finally, some people might be uncomfortable with being strapped into a chair and having a stranger close to their face.
Fortunately, there are multiple methods for dealing with a dental phobia. One of the most straightforward is clinical treatment, where psychotherapy is used to help bring the fear under control. A typical procedure involves direct therapeutic exposure, where patients gradually learn to face the fear-inducing object, such as a needle, to desensitize them from it. This procedure is done in a controlled setup to prevent the fear response from triggering.
Good dentists should care about your mental well-being as much as your teeth. It helps to communicate your fears to your dentist before the procedure. For example, if you have high sensitivity to pain, your dentist will be more able to prescribe an anesthetic strong enough to remove most discomfort.
Coping behaviors are also recommended to distract the patient enough to enable the dentist operation to complete. For example, many dental procedures are doable even if the patient is wearing a set of earphones. In this case, music can be used to calm the person. For children, they can be accompanied by parents, who can play with them or engage them in conversations that can help comfort them.
Breathing exercises can be useful in destressing before and during the dental procedure. Patients can do these exercises by taking deep, slow breaths while closing their eyes until the can feel themselves relaxing. Gradually relaxing your muscles can also help reduce tension and dissipate any anxiety.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure to communicate your plans with your dentist. If your dentist does not support you, then it is time to find another dentist. Tooth care can be stressful, and you and your family deserve adequate psychological support.