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What is Dental Anxiety and Phobia?

By  , Expert Content
Dec 04, 2012
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

Some people may avoid dental visits although most dental procedures are not painful. However just the thought of dental examination can make some people feel stressed. Some anxiety or stress about going to a dentist or any doctor is okay. But if the thought of dental visit is terrifying and you would do just about anything to avoid a dental appointment it is not normal. A person with dental phobia will do anything to avoid a dental visit such as bear pain due to gum infections (periodontal disease) or cavities.

Dental anxiety and phobia are more common than actually appreciated and both are not the same thing. People with dental anxiety have exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears and are stressed before their appointment whereas people with dental phobia panic or have intense fear or dread dental appointments and treatment. At times a person with dental phobia may never see a dentist. People with dental anxiety and phobia are at higher risk of gum and teeth disease, premature tooth loss, and may have to bear emotional costs as well. Discolored or damaged teeth, poor oral hygiene can make a person self-conscious and insecure. Dental anxiety and phobia are very treatable conditions like any other mental disorder.

 

Causes Of Dental Anxiety And Phobia


There are several reasons of dental anxieties and phobias, but some of the common causes are;


  • Fear of pain especially after a painful previous experience

  • Feeling of helplessness and loss of control while undergoing treatment in a dental chair,

  • Embarrassment in opening mouth, especially if the dental hygiene is poor, and if a person is self-conscious about the appearance of his or her teeth.

 

Symptoms

There are no specific symptoms that differentiate normal anxiety from phobia. Normally a dental appointment or chekup should not fill you with terror. If it does, then you probably have dental anxiety or phobia. Some symptoms of dental phobia are:

 

  • You are stressed or have difficulty in sleeping the night before a dental appointment

  • You are very anxious and nervous in the doctor’s waiting room.

  • Prospect of a dental visit makes you feel sick

  • You panic during the dental examination and suddenly find it difficult to breathe.

 

Treatments And Coping Methods


Communicating With Your Dentist


  • Go to a dentist with whom you feel comfortable with, who listens to you, understands your concerns, and gives you adequate time. Talk to your dentist about your concerns and fears. Most dental treatment can be made painless.

  • If you actively participate in planning your treatment with your doctor it can give you a feeling of control that can help you to feel less anxious.

  • Understand about the procedures and ask if the treatment can be done over a few sittings than one appointment. Know in advance what's happening at every stage of the procedure so that you can prepare yourself and you won't be taken by surprise.

  • If you are worried about pain ask the dentist the types of pain control available and what will be best for you.

  • To help lower your anxiety during the appointment, ask your dentist to explain what's happening at every stage of the procedure.

  • You can request your dentist to stop for a while during treatment if you feel panicky or anxious.

 

Don’t be embarrassed to discuss your fears as many people have are afraid of dental procedures. If your dentist is aware about your concerns he or she will be better address your problem in a better way.

 

Distraction


You can try to reduce your stress during a dental appointment by using a distraction such as engaging in something pleasant that you like such as listening to music or watching TV.

 

Pain Control


Fear of pain especially after a painful previous experience is a major cause of anxiety or phobia. Currently many medications and techniques are available that can reduce or eliminate pain during most procedures. If you are worried about pain ask the dentist the types of pain control available and what will be best for you. If you are comforted that the procedure won’t be painful it can help to reduce your anxiety.

 

Relaxation Techniques


Relaxation techniques can help to lower your anxiety during a dental appointment or procedure. Some of the common and effective relaxation techniques that can help you include deep breathing, music therapy, yoga, meditation. These techniques are easy to learn. You can consult a therapist for them, but remember that you have to practice it regularly in order for them to be effective. Certain alternative therapies such as acupuncture and acupressure can also be useful.

 

Sedation


If you are really anxious and tense then you may request your dentist to give you sedatives such as diazepam (Valium) to relax the central nervous system and help feel calmer.

 

Therapy


If your anxiety or phobia is so extreme that you avoid dentist even if you have painful tooth consult a psychologist. Psychologists and psychiatrists can counsel or give cognitive therapy, or if needed medication to overcome fear.

 

 

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