Dental Phobia – Why People Fear the Dentist
Going to the dentist has never really been easy for anyone. The first thing that comes to mind when you need a dentist appointment is the inevitable sensation of pain. When I was little something horrible happened at the dentist’s office, and since then, I never really wanted to return.
My parents took me to a local dentist and everything was going well. He was doing a regular clean-up service when the unexpected occurred. I started feeling an overwhelming sensation of unpleasantness in my lower gums. The dentist had reached an area that was very sensitive to touch inside my lower teeth, reminiscent of nails scratching a chalkboard.
Since then, I have never really wanted to go to the doctor ever again. Any time either my mom or dad scheduled an appointment, I gave them the worst excuses to avoid feeling that horrible sensation once again.
When I started reading more about fears in dental patients, I noticed categorized fears exist for a variety of reasons. Once I realized what those fears were and was able to confront them, I was able to pick the most experienced dental practice in San Diego, and haven’t stopped going there since.
In order to understand what people actually go through when they tell you they fear going to the dentist, we have to look at some cold, hard facts. There was a study at the University of Washington that shows between 5% and 8% of Americans don’t like visiting the dentist because of fear.
These are patients who feel anxious and only go to the dental office if it’s a life or death situation. This is very dangerous for your health and one of the worst things you can do as a patient. Not going to the Dentist simply due to fear should be unacceptable past a certain stage in life.
Where does this fear come from?
Dentists are the ones who can help you conquer this fear. They have the capacity of helping all patients with a particular kind of dental phobia and assist them in receiving the care needed to maintain their dental health.
Some may take the approach of scaring the patient even more by showing them pictures of people who don’t go to the dentist at an advanced age, but those scare tactics would be falling under the same kind of problem.
It’s best to take the psychological approach and try first to understand the root of such phobias. This will help both the doctor and the patient see the source of the problem, and tackle it accordingly.
Every single person who’s experienced fear of going to the dentist went through a particular set of unique circumstances that were the genesis of this fear. Patients that suffer from this fear don’t just magically have it; there is a hidden reason behind it just like the one I mentioned at the start of this article.
Like me, all of those patients who experience dental phobia have gone through a traumatic experience that pushed them to decide on never setting foot in a dentist’s office again. There are many reasons as to why people develop these phobias.
A patient could’ve suffered due to inadequate anesthesia during surgery, extreme complications from a procedure, or some other kind of extreme circumstance. There are also people like me who are scared of drills or needles.
Many people who fear being locked in a small room, have a fear of bright lights, loud noises, being touched, or even feeling uncomfortable around strangers, are prone to panic attacks on the chair. This stems from an underlying anxiety disorder that can trigger a patient. This is commonly seen in many dental practices.
After that first dentist visit, where I realized that my problem was fear of drills, many years passed before ever returning to a dental office. Fortunately for my teeth, I had the chance to meet Dr. Serena Kurt from “Serena Dental.”
A friend of mine recommended her to me, and Dr.Kurt explained everything about dental phobias during our first consultation. This eased my mind tremendously, allowing me to relax and take in everything she had to say.
Strategies to Avoid & Prevent Dental Anxiety
Before I spoke to Dr. Serena, I had no idea that Dental anxiety was a thing. When she explained this term in more detail, I realized I suffered from this condition. She showed me different ways to fight the anxiety I carried with me since childhood.
Dentists find it very helpful to know of any dental phobias a patient might have before treatment. People who suffer from this condition, however, are not very eager to open discussion regarding their fears. The ideal way to start every single dentist appointment is to ask the patient, as subtly as possible, how comfortable they are with the consultation.
If the patient shows any signs of distress, or flat out tells the dentist “I’m nervous,” the dentist has to make sure he/she is aware of all the reasons the patient might be feeling this type of way.
The dentist always needs to be on the lookout for various ways in which to help the patient feel comfortable at all times. Telling jokes, or talking about different topics to deflect attention, is a great way to combat anxiety. Assist the patient in being aware of every single procedure in detail also helps plenty.
As a patient, you must always ask questions to feel better with the dentist. The trained professional will answer in detail any questions you might have. Always try to establish an effective way of communicating with the dentist during your procedure. Signs and sounds work very well, but you must discuss this with your dentist during the consultation, or before treatment.
Dentists with patients who feel extra anxious can help them by making sure they completely understand what the complete procedure entails. Always tell the patient what he or she can expect to feel with every single tool you as the dentist will use. Any sudden movements have to be acknowledged beforehand, and it’s also very helpful when dentists slow down with overly anxious people.
Although some patients are looking to get the procedure done and over with as fast as possible, it is imperative to allow for the dental specialist to work calmly. Personally, I felt anxious when the dentist started grabbing the drill, or any needle. But Dr. Serena made sure I was always focused on something else; her small talk always worked to keep my fears at bay.
Being in a room with a comfortable environment is always really pleasing. If your dentist has a brightly-lit room that reminds you of a horror movie, make sure to tell them to dim the lights and only to use the bright luminosity from the chair’s light-source.
Also, make sure to mention you don’t ever want the light pointed at your eyes. Some people can have an uncontrollable fear of not being entirely in control. If a drink of water helps you relax, then go ahead and ask for it. The Doctor should always comply with your requests.
Panic attacks tend to be very common among patients who have dental phobia. These attacks can be complicated to understand for people with no detailed information about the episodes.
They may not be physically dangerous for the people who experience them, but panic attacks can be extremely traumatic, and if the individual who suffers them also suffers heart failure, something much worse could happen.
The dentist conducting any procedure needs to be ready to stop it as soon as it becomes evident that the patient individual a panic attack.
These attacks are characterized by precise details very easy to spot: rapid breathing, accelerated heart rate, darting eyes, sweating, etcetera. A dentist with a patient suffering a panic attack needs to ask if they want the dentist to leave the room or if they want him to stay.
No matter what the patient asks for, the dentist must always offer a cup of water and tell them to sit up for a few minutes. Doing controlled breathing exercises also helps calm patients down in more severe cases.
The dentist has to remind the patient that the panic attack will pass and that they are safe inside the room. The patient needs to understand that nothing physically dangerous is happening to them.
It was only after this thorough explanation from Dr. Serena Kurt that I finally realized the dentist who treated me when I was young had accidentally hit a nerve while using a drill.
When I hit 30 years of age a wisdom tooth pushed me to visit the dentist. I hadn’t been inside a Dental Clinic for more than 60 minutes at a time since my original incident, and it was always for regular cleanings.
The pain that came from removing a wisdom tooth was greater than anything I had ever felt before. Simply thinking about visiting the dentist gave me insomnia for a whole year, but when one of my best friends from childhood told me about Dr. Kurt, I had to give her a chance.
I’m ever-grateful to my friend for convincing me to visit Dr. Kurt instead of withstanding the unbearable pain.
Acute anxiety prevented millions of Americans from looking for proper dental care. I had no idea how bad it was until Dr. Serena Kurt told me most people who don’t like the dentist is due to fear.
These people usually end up even worse when mouth diseases form from lack of regular dental visits. Gum disease, for example, is a horrible infection that can reach other parts of the body. Studies have now linked gum disease to other major illnesses like heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.
That’s something to think about when you’re certain you don’t want to go to the dentist.
Some dentists specialize in taking fearful patients as their subjects in hopes of ending their fear through treatment. These dental professionals usually have studied a certain degree of psychology and tend to create the most comfortable environment for their patients.
Some dentists strategically place a small waterfall in the room that creates the acoustic illusion of the patient being at a place where water is flowing. This has proven to be very helpful for patients with anxiety.
Some waiting rooms also have a fireplace and very relaxing photography. These dentists stray away from using posters of gum disease or other things of that nature.
Take a look at the best methods a dentist should use to enhance a feeling of control in patients with dental phobias:
- They gently explain the feelings the patient will go through and the amount of time they will feel them.
- They never stop questioning the patients during the procedure and ask for permission to do anything before proceeding.
- They tell the patient they can stop the process at any given moment if the patient doesn’t feel right. They usually give the patients a cue or a signal to stop.
- They take the time to take a breather if the patient desires.
Many dentists cannot be considered good at their job because they lack the patience to attend to their patients’ needs when they have a particular type of phobia. Dentistry is very much like medicine in the sense that not everybody has the stomach or patience for it.
Dr. Serena Kurt was heaven sent because when I first spoke to her on the phone, she immediately asked me about my fears. She is a dental professional who cares about your well-being.
Nowadays any charlatan can call himself a dentist and perform horrible treatments on patients, creating the phobias we discussed. But with Dr. Kurt at Serena Dental, they will make sure your experience is comfortable and relaxed.
Tips to Overcome Phobias
In reality, you may already feel like your phobia is slightly exaggerated. Most of the time fear is not as bad as you believed at first and visited the dentist won’t be as painful as you possibly thought it would be.
Many interviews with patients who underwent dental work with certain reservations suggest that many of them had anticipated a lot more discomfort or pain than they felt. The root canal specifically has zero popularity among patients since incredibly painful toothaches usually precede it.
The truth about the procedure, however, is that it helps patients get rid of pain for good. That’s what happened to me, and right after I finished the procedure with Dr. Kurt, I was feeling increasingly better. The jaw pain that follows a root canal becomes more prolonged depending on the time you spent sitting on the chair.
There is nothing that painkillers won’t cure. But if you are still feeling paranoid or suffer from natural panic attacks due to dental phobia, write down these tips to help you overcome your fear of dentists:
- When you go to that first visit, don’t go alone and pick someone you trust to accompany you. Preferably someone who doesn’t fear a dentist of course. If you can, ask your friend or about sit near you during the procedure.
- Try to look for other distractions when you are sitting in that chair. Try to listen to music on your headphones or find a dentist with whom you can watch television. Distractions sure do help a whole lot in these situations.
- Have a go at some relaxation techniques. Controlled breathing helps as this will slow down your heartbeat and relax your muscles. Another thing you can try is progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups.
- Painkillers or anesthetic always help. Laughing gas can have some seriously funny side effects that make for great footage later.
- If none of these things worked, and there is no chance of you going to a dentist, then you might want to try a psychologist first. A trained professional who can deal with all types of phobias might be the answer and will be very helpful in the end.
To visit the dental practice I just recommended, go online and look for Dr. Serena Kurt. Confirm for yourself everything I’m telling you. You won’t regret it, and you will get that perfect smile you have always wanted.
Conquering your fears will be, like they say, killing two birds with one stone.