Fear of the dentist

14.09.2012 Friday

Fear of “the dentist” is pretty common. If you’ve had bad experiences with dentists in the past, it is very easy to make the assumption that dentists, in general, are bad people.

It may seem implausible, but there are a lot of caring and gentle dentists around, the only potential difficulty is finding them. If you read the full article, you can have a few tips that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist.

Fear of dentists is something that most people share to an extent – after all, it is almost certain to hurt a little and at the very best level, you will end up lying back in an uncomfortable chair with someone’s fingers in your mouth. Not an attractive prospect, no matter how you look at it. In fact, fear of dentists is so common that it has its own word to describe it – odontophobia.

Most people have a fear of the dentist because of a bad experience or – even worse – a series of bad experiences. If this then causes them to stop visiting the dentist regularly they will only be reinforcing their beliefs as any visit they then have to make is likely to be because they have toothache which may result in some even more painful procedures such as root canal. This way, their phobia only becomes more deep seated.

Persuading someone with a fear of visiting the dentist that it won’t hurt is always going to be difficult and of course if the visit then results in pain or discomfort, the next time it will be impossible to get them through the surgery door. The secret is to find a dentist who is experienced in dealing with phobic patients and who will be willing to give a little more time and effort to reassure and make the visit as non-threatening as possible. It is a good idea to spend some time with the person finding out what it is about the dentist that makes them so afraid. Sometimes it turns out that it is a single element of the visit which starts the fear building and in this case it is usually quite easy to fix.

Most people have a phobia which has its roots in childhood or young adulthood and is caused by a dentist who was not very sensitive and possibly carried on treatment when the patient wanted to stop. This feels very violating, bearing in mind the quite vulnerable body position the dentist’s chair creates. If this is the main problem, then it may be all that is needed is for a dentist to allow the patient to rest their hand on their arm so that they can show with light pressure that they want to stop. For complex procedures, a dental nurse can hold the patient’s hand to prevent any danger from sharp implements. In this case the dentist must stop when asked – ignoring the patient’s wishes at this point will only make the phobia worse.

The fear may stem from a fear of needles and in this case it is easy to convince the patient that check-ups and many other procedures are carried out without any injections. Also, dental needles are usually much finer than those used on normal cutaneous injections and so are generally much less painful. If the fear is the sight of needles and various gadgets used in dentistry, a light eye mask can solve the problem very simply.

Choosing a dentist who will be sensitive to the needs of the phobic patient is the beginning of a better relationship and better oral health. Booking an appointment with no actual dental contact is a good idea, when the dentist and patient can get to know each other. The equipment in a dental surgery can look scary and an introduction to what everything does is an excellent start towards beating the fear. Some people are put off by the smell in a dental surgery but if the fear began in childhood it is more than likely that the antiseptics used are now very different, so a visit in non-threatening atmosphere will go a long way to getting rid of this particular fear.

In extreme cases there is a lot that can be done by therapy. Some people swear by hypnosis and other similar methods and for a fairly speedy result this can be very useful. Many people who have a fear of dentists are generally anxious about other things as well, so some therapeutic visits to a counsellor can improve general wellbeing whilst also helping towards better oral health. Some dental surgeries work with counsellors to achieve fear-free dentistry – avoiding the dentist is something which will certainly have repercussions in later life.

No good dentist takes odontophobia lightly. If your dentist is not prepared to work with you to create an atmosphere in which you feel comfortable, then you should look for one who will. Make sure that the receptionist knows that you are phobic when you ring for an appointment and then you can attend your appointment without worry and take the next step to a healthy and well maintained mouth.

It may seem implausible, but there are a lot of caring and gentle dentists around, the only potential difficulty is finding them. If you read the full article, you can have a few tipps that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist.