Dental phobia or fear of the dentist is widespread. The behavior is usually acquired early in life, although an unpleasant experience can initiate the behavior. Cases of dental phobia range from mild to severe. In severe cases individuals will avoid going to the dentist for years, and sometimes decades.
What Causes Dental Phobia
Fear of the dentist is usually associated with an unpleasant experience while in a dental office. We are not referring to getting a large bill for completed treatment. The most common initiating factor is initiating treatment on teeth with poor anesthesia. When the dentist begins treatment the patient unexpectedly gets a jolt of pain that can be compared to getting shocked by electricity. During subsequent treatment the patient is unable to fully relax because of anticipation of the unpleasant feeling. This type of fear based on experience can be amplified in the younger population. The younger the patient, the more likely it is that their fear will be amplified as they get older and they are more likely to avoid seeing a dentist.
Another reason patients fear the dentist, although less common is due to a negative interaction that a young patient has with their dentist. After providing local anesthesia the dentist did not provide sufficient time for the teeth to get numb as they are eager to get started with treatment. While the patient informs the dentist that they are in pain the dentist ignore them or instruct them to sit it out. This complete loss of control for the patient amplified by the severe pain, scars the patient for years and sometimes for a lifetime.
The third way patients acquire fear of dentistry is by hearing stories from others about their horrible experiences. An example would be someone having a fear of a root canal because there is a lot of negative connotation associated with this particular treatment. The problem is that the negative experiences with root canals that patients have are usually because they waited too long to seek treatment. You also hear of negative experiences because a positive experience with root canal treatment is not very dramatic.
How to Deal With Dental Phobia?
When it comes to fear of dentistry, there is no magic wand that can be waived and the phobia will be eliminated. There are four main options for patients that fear the dentist. Sedation dentistry, psychological anti-anxiety techniques, a slow approach to treatment and avoiding the dentist. For individuals that suffer from severe phobia and need extensive dental work, sedation dentistry is a good option. Sedation dentistry can consist of oral conscious sedation, inflation sedation and Intravenous (IV) sedation.
Oral sedation is the least expansive form of sedation available in dentistry today. Most common oral sedation options are Valium (diazepam), Halcyon (triazolam), Versed (midazolam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Inhalation sedation is dominated by nitrous oxide. There is usually a small charge associated with the administration of nitrous oxide. IV sedation is the most expensive form of sedation used in dentistry. IV sedation is administered in a dental office or a hospital setting. Usually it is used on patients that need extensive dental work or complicated treatment. The two commonly used drugs for IV sedation are Fentanyl and Propofol. The advantage of using iv sedation is that in most instances all the work can be completed in one sitting and the patient has no recollection of the whole episode. The main disadvantage of IV sedation in dentistry is the cost. Many patients that would benefit from use of IV sedation cannot afford it.
There are numerous anti-anxiety techniques that reduce the patient’s level of stress and anxiety. Some of these include meditation, relaxation exercises, hypnosis, and aromatherapy, just to mention a few. If you would like to learn more about these techniques of coping with stress please visit the website Calmclinic.com to learn more.
Another way to deal with a fear of the dentist is the slow go approach. Start slow with procedures that are less likely to elicit discomfort like an exam and a cleaning. Slowly progress to fillings and crowns and any other work that needs to be done. The thought is that as you feel more comfortable with your providers and your surroundings your anxiety level will decrease and you will be able to tolerate dental treatment that you never thought you could. This option does not cost anything extra but it may take a long time to complete any necessary treatment.
How to eliminate inherited dental phobia
There are also ways for patients to develop fear of the dentist without having a bad experience. Kids are sponges and absorb everything they hear. When kids hear adults discussing negative experiences that occurred to them at the dentist they will develop a preconceived idea that bad things happen to people when they go to the dentist. It is important to discuss these experiences without the presence of the kids so that the kids emotional state is not affected. Another great way to eliminate potential fear of the dentist is to allow the kids to develop their own opinions about the dentist. When kids are brought into a dental office at an early age they learn that going to the dentist is like getting a haircut. Another positive outcome is that kids go through proactive instead of reactive dentistry. They get a cleaning and minor dental work if needed instead of coming in with rampant decay and being in pain. This teaches the kids the value and importance of regular dental visits.