Many people fear going to the doctor’s office. Certainly, there’s a fear of the impending pain from a procedure or getting your skin pricked by a needle. However, dental phobia is not the same as simply fearing to go to the doctor. A person who has dental phobia can experience anxiety, stress, and fear in a dental setting. This can have negative consequences for the person, especially if they find it difficult to get themselves treated in time for a dental problem. Refusal to go to the dentist or delaying the visit/procedure can worsen a certain condition.
According to one adult dental health survey conducted in 2009, 36% of the people experienced anxiety going to the dentist, while 12% felt extremely anxious. Yet, you are not alone in dealing with dental phobia. Many people imagine the worst happening when going to the dentist’s office, such as a bad injury. Sometimes, the sounds and smells can cause dental fear, while the dentist himself/herself might also induce anxiety in the person.
What is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia is an irrational and disabling fear of a dentist or dental setting. It is more than just feeling anxious. A person with dental phobia can have a panic attack and feel terrified of attending the dentist. Although people with dental phobia realize that their fear might not be logical but still aren’t able to do anything about it. They will also do their best to avoid a visit to the dentist’s office. However, in doing so, they actively avoid getting treatment which can cause serious health problems.
People with dental phobia also delay their treatment for as long as they can. This entails that they go when they start experiencing extreme pain. Even the thought of going to the dentist and needles can make them feel anxious. The sound of a dental drill can also cause high levels of anxiety.
It isn’t necessary that a person has to fear needles, the sound of dental drills, and the dentist to have dental phobia. The fears that a person has can vary. It may be that the idea of getting injected in the mouth causes anxiety in one person and the sound of a drill in another. One of the biggest reasons many people experience dental phobia is the loss of control. They don’t feel that things are in their hands. The loss of control over a procedure/treatment can make them feel even more anxious.
What Are the Causes of Dental Phobia?
Generally, traumatic childhood experiences at a dentist’s office can develop a dental phobia in a person. However, it doesn’t always have to be at a dentist’s office. An injury to the head or neck or a bad experience at any other healthcare facility can also instil fear in them. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can also make a person extremely anxious when going to the dentist.
Some people also fear that they might get diagnosed with a terrible disease if they visit the dentist’s office. Therefore, it is better not to go at all. Delaying the treatment can worsen their problem, which can, in turn, make them feel embarrassed about showing their mouth to the dentist. It can be a vicious cycle that the person has to break. They can also feel that the dentist is invading their personal space by being too up close to their mouth. This may also make them avoid going to the dentist.
The person might not trust the dentist to do a good job or might fear that the dentist can harm them. A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder can also feel fearful concerning cleanliness and hygiene.
Receiving a local anaesthetic can also make people anxious. They can feel a loss of control in that they might not be able to communicate with the dentist if they’re experiencing any problems. People with dental phobia can also experience fear of choking other than that of needles, dental drills, and pain.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dental Phobia?
If you avoid getting dental treatment because of something you fear or feel anxious about going to the dentist, then you might have dental phobia. Other than that, people with dental phobia can experience:
- low blood pressure
- using humour as a coping tool to ease their anxiety
- trouble sleeping
Some other signs include that the person feels restless and anxious the day before the operation. It isn’t that the person with dental phobia feels anxiety once they are at the dentist. Even the thought of going to the dentist can make them feel terrified and sick. Dental phobia is something that many people experience. You do not need to feel embarrassed if you also have dental phobia. However, it is important that you look for ways to cope with dental anxiety and overcome it. Otherwise, it can significantly impact your oral health.
How Dental Phobia Can Impact Your Oral Health
Avoiding visiting the dentist’s office due to dental phobia can lead to a situation where it becomes imperative for the person to go. Otherwise, they can seriously harm themselves. If a person needs treatment, not getting it treated and checked can make it worse over time. This may mean that they might need to undergo a bigger, more expensive surgery.
Regular dental check-ups are important. This will help you in the long run because if there’s a problem, the dentist can catch it early on so that it doesn’t spread or get worse. Sometimes, people with dental phobia avoid going to the dentist for years, which is simply dangerous, especially if they need help. Not going to the dentist can increase the likelihood of a visit as your oral health worsens over time.
Moreover, you are also feeding into your fear by not going to the dentist. As time passes by, you might feel even more scared of dentists, drills, needles, and other factors that cause dental anxiety. One way of overcoming this is to face your fear and go to the dentist. People who avoid dentist’s visits also miss out on learning about ways through which they can better take care of their oral health. This again turns into a vicious cycle, where, as they avoid a dentist, their oral health might get worse, and they might need to visit a doctor more than ever before.
How To Treat Dental Phobia?
There are some things that you can try to cope with dental anxiety:
- Listening to music or reading a book (before the treatment/check-up), or something to distract yourself.
- You can also try some deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves, and try meditation or yoga.
- Exercising can also help you deal better with stress.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the therapist seeks to change the way that you think. Since it is the way you think, your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that guide your behaviour, changing can help you manage your dental phobia. Some medications are also prescribed for dealing with dental phobias, such as SSRIs, MAOIs, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers, among others. Hypnotherapy (using hypnosis) is another treatment option for dental phobia. They can help a person feel more relaxed.
Before going to the dentist, it is also a good idea to call the dentist’s office and let them know that you have a dental phobia. Visiting the dentist and getting to know him/her before having a full treatment will help you feel more relaxed. Since trust issues can also cause dental anxiety, it’s a good idea to establish rapport with the dentist. You can talk to the dentist about the things that make you anxious and if there are some things that they can do to make you feel more comfortable. However, before that, you may consider getting some treatments to better manage the dental phobia if you experience it extremely.
What Can Dentists Do for Patients with Dental Phobia?
People with dental phobia also have a fear of the dentist. However, the dentist can do some things to make the patient feel more relaxed and comfortable. If a person has a serious oral health issue and is unable to get treatment due to dental phobia, the dentist can consider sedation and even general anaesthesia in some cases.
Generally, dental procedures don’t need general anaesthesia, but when getting dental implants or bone grafts, the dentist can consider giving you general anaesthesia. In this, the patient will be unconscious before the surgery begins. Therefore, they won’t feel anything while the surgery is taking place.
Longevita’s dental surgeons understand that many people have dental phobia. Our surgeons know how to provide oral healthcare to patients with dental anxiety. So, they can rest assured. If you have dental phobia, you can rely on Longevita to take good care of your oral health needs. All you need to do is contact us, and we’ve got you from there.