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Dental phobia -Face Your Fears!

For many people, the thought of visiting a dentist evokes fear. This fear of visiting the dentist is commonly called dental anxiety. Let’s explore it in detail.
Dental phobia -Face Your Fears!
Finding a dentist who can empathize with you and your dental anxiety can be difficult. Here are some tips that could help.
In this article

Dental phobia or dental anxiety is the stress, panic, and fear of visiting a dentist. It usually leads to delays and cancellations in dental treatment. Even visiting a dentist causes extreme nervousness, tension, emotional reactions, terror, uneasiness, panic attacks, worry, and intensified fear. 

Imagine visiting a doctor with scary-looking instruments, objects, and tools all used to cause some or the other discomfort in the mouth, including itchy gums or tooth pain. This is a scary picture for many people. This kind of fear is common among both kids and adults. At least 36% of the USA population suffers from dental phobia. Of this, 12% exhibit extreme fear, and 3% avoid visiting a dentist. 

Symptoms of dental anxiety 

According to doctors and medical books, there are many ways in which people can show dental phobia. They are:

Symptoms of nervousness

  • Trouble falling asleep a night before the dentist’s appointment
  • Nervous feeling that increases as one enters the dentist’s office (waiting room or reception area)
  • Crying or feeling ill because the thought of visiting the dentist makes one sick
  • Profound uneasiness when objects get placed inside the mouth in a dental setting

Other Symptoms

  • Fainting spells
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tightness
  • Holding hands tightly
  • Strong startle response (surprise reaction is prominent)
  • Restlessness
  • Unsteady hands
  • Stiff posture
  • Confusion
  • Avoiding people
  • Walking fast
  • Talking fast
  • Hyperacidity
  • Clearing throat
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating of hands, feet, upper lip, and forehead
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Indigestion
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shaking of hands and feet
  • The pounding of the heart felt like a pronounced feeling of the heart beating

Causes of dental phobia

  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of injections
  • Fear of side effects of anesthesia
  • Embarrassment
  • Previous exposure to a bad dental experience
  • Traumatic experiences like abuse
  • Previous traumatic experiences to head and neck
  • Fear of loss of control 
  • Trust issues with the dentist
  • Invasion of personal space (mouth, teeth, gums)
  • Already a patient of generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD(Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and or depression
  • A previous traumatic healthcare experience
  • Fear of dentists from childhood
  • Patients of sexual assaults and sexual abuse.
  • A family history of dental phobia
  • Individuals who are highly neurotic and introverted
  • Children with less verbal intelligence (ability to express feelings and fears)
  • Fear of receiving bad news from the dentist due to bleeding gums, toothache, or tooth decay
  • Fear of the noise of the instruments used by the dentist

Pathology of dental anxiety

The fear and anxiety of visiting the dentist:

  • Causes: Avoidance of going to the dental clinic for dental care
  • Leads to: Worse dental health
  • Results: Feeling guilty, shameful, and inferiority complex due to improper dental health (bad smell from the mouth, crooked teeth, decayed teeth, constant salivation, mouth dryness, etc.)

How to deal with dental anxiety 

Coping with dental phobia may seem impossible for the ones suffering from it, but it is achievable. Here are three easy-to-adopt ways: 

Distractions

Anxiety is the fear of impending doom or something that takes one away from the present situation into a world full of the things one dislikes and avoids. So, in such cases, distractions work best. Distractions that help them concentrate on their present scenario. Do these before visiting the dentist – listen to your favorite song, play your favorite outdoor sports game, dance to the tunes of your actor’s song, or go for a long walk in your park with a friend. 

Deep breathing

Long and deep breaths help you cope. These long breaths divert your concentration from the fear of impending doom. Once you stop letting the fear overwhelm you, visiting the dentist will seem like a cakewalk.

Take someone along

The fear of the dentist usually worsens when you don’t have company. When you take someone along with you, they can help distract or motivate you.  

Tips for coping

Dental care affects one’s overall health, so dental phobia should not keep you from visiting the dentist for dental checkups and teeth cleanings. The irrational fear of instruments, scenarios, and dentists often keeps you from going for regular checks. Here are some tips for coping with dental phobia:

  • Make an early morning appointment. Fewer patients, less noise from the instruments, and quick wrap-up help.
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones and play soothing music. 
  • Once in the dental seat, allow your muscles to relax.
  • Try meditating techniques to calm your mind before visiting the dentist.
  • With your closed eyes, visually imagine happy thoughts, scenarios, and people during the dental session. 

Treatments for dental anxiety 

Overcoming dental phobia can happen by facing fear, usually centered around the dentist, instrument, or situation. The support of healthcare professionals and peers plays a vital role in making this happen. If that does not work, here are some treatment options: 

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This is all about coping with anxiety by managing triggers by changing the way one thinks about it.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis reduces anxiety. It increases relaxation and diverts the mind. 

Acupuncture

Gentle and thin metallic needles penetrate the skin of the back to target dental anxiety, overall health, and stress management. 

Progressive muscular relaxation

Dental anxiety has been known to result in muscle tightening. In progressive muscular relaxation (PMR), you relax and tighten your muscles one by one in a specified pattern to release excess tension. 

Exposure therapy

Face your fears. It is the best form of therapy for dealing with the fear of the dentist. Face the dentist to overcome dental phobia. Exposure therapy involves exposing you to the fear you avoid. 

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Dental phobia -Face Your Fears! 10

How to find a dentist who understands dental anxiety 

Finding a dentist who can empathize with you can be difficult. Here are some tips that could help:

Find your cause

What is it that makes you anxious about dental treatment? Is it the needles? The dental care setup? Or is it the fear of tooth pain? Once you know the cause of dental phobia, it becomes easier for the dentist to help you overcome it. 

Talk to your family, friends, and colleagues

Ask them about good nearby dentists whom they trust and who can deal with dental phobia. Find a caring dentist who will provide you with a no-shame environment for dental treatment. A kind dentist ensures his patients feel comfortable and relaxed before the treatment. 

Tell your dentist 

Communicate with your dentist about your phobia beforehand. So, dental care goes smoothly. The dentist will prepare the session in a way that does not trigger your anxiety. Instead of an anesthetic injection, he will opt for an anesthetic gas. 

Conclusion 

Delaying dental care will not serve your teeth and your overall health. Try and become friends with your dentist so that they can, in turn, help you overcome your dental anxiety. 

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Author

Arati Kulkarni

Arati Kulkarni

A freelance content writer by profession for the last seven years, Dr Arati Kulkarni Srivastava has an extensive medical and management background of 8 years. She enjoys writing on healthcare, mental health, and wellness.

Editor

This page is purely informational. Beem does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

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