Do you suffer from anxiety at the thought of having to go to the dentist? A number of adults experience some type of dental phobia or anxiety when anticipating an upcoming office appointment with their provider. Many of them will only seek treatment when they have an emergency, such as a toothache or abscess and many may neglect necessary oral procedures unless they are forced to go.
Most dental clients report being more concerned about invasive procedures, such as oral surgery, rather than the less intensive measures such as dental cleanings and x-rays. This article will discuss the most common reasons people have for their feelings of dental phobia.
- Personal Experience: is the most common reason person developing dental fears. Their dental fear began after a traumatic, difficult or painful experience with the dentist. In addition to the phobia of being in a dentist chair, clients report their phobia also depended on how the dentist treated them. For example, if the dentist was impersonal, uncaring or cold, clients' state because of the dentist's demeanor it added to their anxiety. In other situations, some clients failed to develop dental fear if they perceived the dentist to be warm and caring.
- Dental fear may also develop as clients hear about others' traumatic experiences or negative views of dentists. This not only pertains to having pain while receiving treatment, but also being embarrassed by insensitive remarks made by some providers or the delivery of bad news regarding their dental care or oral hygiene. Clients have also been known to feel anxiety because of the sights, sounds and smell of a dentist office.
- Helplessness and Loss of Control: If a client believes they have no way of influencing a negative event, they will experience helplessness which leads to fear. For example, the belief that the dentist will stop if the client gives a signal will lessen their feelings of fear or not having any control over the situation. Basically, the anxiety is the belief that the client is at the mercy of the dentist because they do not know what to expect, they are not familiar with the procedure and can't observe what is being done inside their mouth in case they want to get involved to stop it. The client experiences an overwhelming sense of not being in control which causes anxiety.
Dental phobia can have widespread consequences on a person's life. Not only does their dental health suffer, but dental phobia may lead to anxiety and depression. Due to their embarrassment over their teeth, clients may avoid socializing with friends and family and may avoid working jobs which involve extensive contact with the public.
Combinations of behavioral and pharmacological techniques are used to relax the client during office visits. Behavioral strategies include positive reinforcement, show and tell techniques which explain the procedure and then show the client the instruments that will be used and the sights, sounds and smells associated with their use in their dental treatment. Other strategies include relaxation and distraction techniques such as listening to music or watching movies.
Pharmacological techniques consist of mild sedation to general anesthesia and can be used in conjunction with the behavioral techniques. While the sedatives may help clients feel calmer and sometimes drowsy during their dental procedure, the client is still conscious and able to communicate with the dental staff. There are several ways to deal with dental phobia it just boils down to what you are comfortable with and of course if your dental provider can offer this type of assistance to you.