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All You Need to Know About Dental Phobia

June 3, 2022

One of the most vital aspects of our overall health, oral health is regarded as extremely important more than ever in present times.

However, most of the concerns for oral health are also accompanied by fear of the dentist which stems from many feelings related to worries over one’s oral health and probable bad experiences one may have had at the dentist in the past.

The fear, anxiety, or stress related to a dental setup is known as Dental Anxiety or Dental Phobia. This fear of visiting the dentist can make one delay or avoid dental treatment. 

Dental anxiety can be triggered by equipment like needles, drills or the dental atmosphere in general. 

Severe dental anxiety which can be a cause of irrational fear and may make one completely avoid going to the dentist can be classified as a dental phobia, also called odontophobia.

However, a fear of the dentist shouldn’t hold one back from regular checkups and cleanings. 

Understanding various causes as well as treatments and coping mechanisms can be a starting point for helping people conquer their fear of the dentist.

Signs And Symptoms Of Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety can lead to: 

  • Sweating
  • Fast heartbeat or palpitations
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Fainting 
  • Apparent anxiety, crying or showing panic
  • Use of humor or aggression to mask anxiety

Some people routinely miss or avoid dental appointments as they may find it tough to undergo even a simple dental treatment.

Who Can Be Affected By Dental Anxiety?

People of any age can be affected by Dental Anxiety or Phobia. Children who might have had a difficult experience in the past can overcome their fear by managing the situation well and by receiving good support and care during further dental visits.

However, Adults who display signs of Dental Anxiety usually tend to remain anxious all through their life during Dental visits. 

A dentist sympathetic to their situation can help them to cope with the situation.

What Are The Causes Of Dental Anxiety?

Some common concerns that can cause dental anxiety are:

Pain

Many people assume that dental care is naturally painful, a thought which can cause anyone to be fearful.

However, being much less invasive, modern-day dental techniques and treatments are more comfortable than in the past.

Also, a competent dentist will make every effort to ensure a painless experience for the patients.

Loss of Control & Fear of the Unknown

There are other conditions that can be a reason for dental anxiety-like:

  • Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where one feels they cannot escape.
  • Claustrophobia is a fear of closed spaces.
  • An obsessive-compulsive disorder can cause an obsession with cleanliness.

For some people, the sheer uncertainty of what is going to happen or what to expect can cause anxiety, as it can make them feel out of control.

Embarrassment About Dental Health

There are chances that those who have stayed away from the dentist for many years, due to dental anxiety may be dealing with aggravated dental issues.

Or some may worry about getting in trouble for delaying the appointment for so long or maintaining poor dental hygiene, even when their teeth may be in good health.

However one must remember that the longer the going to the dentist is put off, the more likely is the embarrassment to increase!  

Bad Experiences in the Past

Dental anxiety is many times a result of bad or negative past experiences. 

Thinking about the noises of the tools dentists and dental hygienists use for teeth cleaning and exams can bring about some fears, too.

Also Read: How Does Sugar Effect Your Teeth

How does Dental Anxiety or Phobia Can Affect Your Oral Health?

Avoiding the dentist will only make the problem worse, sometimes leading to a need for emergency dental care or maybe more complex treatment.

The underlying problem of dental anxiety is also aggravated by delaying the visit resulting in a ‘vicious cycle of dental anxiety. 

Dental disease can be prevented by regular dental check-ups, cleaning and X-rays of the teeth, allowing the dentist to find early signs of problems easily.

Moreover, early diagnosis requires simpler and less invasive treatments. Signs, if any of mouth cancer, are also checked for during these regular check-ups, especially important for those who smoke or regularly drink alcohol or chew tobacco.

A mouth ulcer that lasts longer than 15 days, should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible.

A timely dental visit is also recommended as most dental diseases are lifestyle-related and preventable, and delaying the checkup will only aggravate them.

What are the Treatments for Dental Phobia?

The best remedy for mild fears is going to the dentist instead of avoiding them.

However, In the case of substantial dental work, sedation is recommended for patients with Dental Phobia so that the patient is not awake during the procedure.

Some of the techniques and methods that can help one combat Dental Anxiety are:

Exposure Therapy

Like any other phobias, dentophobia may be associated with an anxiety disorder, requiring a combination of therapies and medications.

Exposure therapy, a type of psychotherapy, is among the most effective solutions for dentophobia as it implies seeing the dentist in a more gradual manner.

Anxiety Relieving Medication 

Certain types of anti-anxiety medications may help to relieve the symptoms as one works through exposure therapy.

Some physical symptoms of the phobia, such as high blood pressure can also be controlled by medication.

Other methods that can help one overcome fear are deep breaths, meditation, distractions like listening to music or the use of devices, progressive muscle relaxation etc.

Sedation

  • Relative Analgesia (happy gas): Nitrous Oxide also known as Happy gas or laughing gas can help people relax during dental treatment. A mask is fitted to the patient’s face, and one breathes a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide which takes effect within a few minutes and later wears off quickly. It helps the patients to stay relaxed but still be awake. They can talk to the dentist, and hear what they say but not necessarily remember everything afterwards. The relaxed feeling created by nitrous oxide sedation is very pleasant. However, Some people may not like the sensation it creates, and then other options can be considered. 
  • Conscious Sedation: Receiving medication through a drip placed into a vein of the arm or hand is known as Conscious Sedation. Provided by a dentist with advanced training in sedation or anesthetic, Intravenous Sedation can be undertaken at a dental practice like Kirkland Premier Dentistry that has additional equipment. Under IV sedation patients are relaxed and sometimes drift off into a light sleep, but can respond to verbal prompts. Drowsiness and nausea are probably side effects after the procedure. 
  • General Anesthesia: General anesthesia involves patients being ‘fully asleep’ and the treatment under a general anesthetic is carried out in a hospital setting by the dentist and an anesthetist. Nausea and a longer recovery time than other forms of sedation are the possible side effects. A good option for some people,  a general anesthetic doesn’t help the patients to learn coping strategies for anxiety or get used to going to see the dentist. 

The Right Doctor

A substantial difference in how the patient perceives the treatment can be made by the right dentist.

A competent and compassionate dentist will help the patient to feel more comfortable and confident about the care being received.

Kirkland Premier Dentistry is proud of its friendly and caring staff which is highly adept at making the patient feel at ease in our relaxing and comfortable office environment.

Conclusion

Oral health is an important aspect of one’s all-around well-being. However, this fact alone is not enough to convince someone with extreme fear and phobia to go to the dentist.

But as a paradox,  the continued avoidance can only end up making the fear of the dentist even worse.

At Kirkland Premier Dentistry, we are aware of the fact that visiting a new dentist can be a stressful event for many.

But here at our office we approach dental anxiety differently and are here to help.

The appointment is catered to your needs, making sure that you feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the appointment.

We believe in informing and educating the patient as we go along, readily answering all the questions to help you to feel confident.

For an appointment call or book using the online tool.

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