Dental Phobia: Causes And Treatments
Dental phobia is the fear of dentists. There are many variations of what exactly this fear entails. It may be as simple as being afraid to go to the dentist or getting your teeth cleaned. More problematic is the fear someone feels about the discomfort and outright pain that is associated with dentistry itself. How common it is remains unclear. Some researchers say there are 30 to 40 million people in the United States who suffer from this anxiety disorder. Others say that up to 75% of the adult population suffers at least a mild fear of the dentist. Understandably, it is very common among children.
The Causes Of Dental Phobia
Many anxiety disorders are a learned behavior and this one is no exception. Past experiences often determine our feelings about the future. If someone has had a bad experience at a dental office, perhaps a lot of pain, it is natural they would be worried about what is going to happen next time.
Everyone has heard horror stories about someone’s trip to their dentist and that only reinforces whatever fear they already have. Our news and entertainment industries also serve up a constant theme of how frightening it is to go to the dentist. Whether these stories are real or not the message is clear. You have every reason to be afraid.
Some dentists take it upon themselves to scold their patients about their lack of dental care. People in general can resent being told that they have been careless about something and listening to a dentist or a dental technician go on and on about the importance of taking care of your teeth can make the whole experience of going to the dentist something you want to avoid.
The Effects of Dental Phobia
Our teeth are important to our daily lives, and tooth problems can make our lives miserable. The fear someone with dental phobia feels before a scheduled office visit can make them want to avoid that visit altogether. This can lead to a situation where because someone puts off regular dental visits, whatever dental problems they have get worse until they become serious. Neglecting regular cleaning can cause one to develop cavities. That same small cavity can turn into a painful and expensive root canal or extraction. The fear then increases before the next visit.
Dental Phobia Treatment Options
Since many of the anxiety issues surrounding dentistry are the result of past experiences, treatment can be difficult. The usual technique is to try and desensitize the patient to the whole process. Watching videos and discussing what is going to happen are common.
Learning to relax and using music or video to help distract us can help make our visit more comfortable.
Finding a dentist who is not going to berate you for neglecting your oral care can help reduce the embarrassment you feel. It is also important that the oral hygienist understand that lectures may not be a good idea. We all know we should take better care of our teeth.
Modern pain medications can help a lot. By making sure the patient feels no pain that particular fear can be dealt with over time.
Dental phobia can be helped with modern science and a caring dentist. Even if you cannot overcome your fears totally, a sensitive dentist can help make your dental care less frightening.