Dental Phobia by Dr. Lee Lichtenstein
It is amazing how many people end up in pain and having extensive dental work, only because they avoided their routine dental visits.
Granted, there are much more fun things to do with your time than visit your dentist.
But some people have a real fear, or phobia about it, and it is not that unusual…up to 75% of Americans have anxiety or fear over a simple dental cleaning and 20% avoid it. It has been estimated that about 30-40 million Americans deal with this at some level. It is so common, they have even given it a name, DENTAL PHOBIA, or Dentophobia.
What is the difference between anxiety and a phobia? Anxiety is defined as a feeling or worry, nervousness, or unease about an event or something with an uncertain outcome. When someone suffers from a phobia, it is the extreme or irrational fear, or aversion to something. It is anxiety to a new level.
When someone experiences fear, that fear can protect you from danger, The millions of Americans that suffer from some kind of a phobia can tell you that their fear is intense and irrational. They realize their feelings may not be warranted, but they are just unable to overcome it and move forward, some even feeling paralyzed.
Individuals with Dental Phobia understand that their dentist is a really nice person, not threatening or intimidating. The office is bright and clean. The staff is warm and welcoming. They understand that, at the worst, they may have a touch of pain, but walk out with a clean, fresh mouth and pearly white teeth. They understand that missing routine dental visits can lead to infections, extensive dental work, unnecessary expenses, health issues, and avoidable pain.
Realistically, some people fear pain or discomfort. Some have had bad experiences from an earlier visit that they just can’t shake. 75% of adults with dental fears say it was caused by a negative childhood experience. Some fear needles and injections. Some don’t like anesthetics and how it makes them feel (numb, woozy). There are those that feel helpless in the dental chair. Some avoid the visit because they are embarrassed.
For many sufferers, their Dental Phobia is tied to Anxiety Disorder. People with anxiety disorders frequently have extreme, excessive, and unrelenting worry, and fear about everyday situations. These feelings of anxiety and panic affect daily activities, are tough to control, are not proportional to the actual danger and can last a long time. They may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Indicators can start during childhood or the teen years and follow them into adulthood.
Help to avoid and calm Dental Phobia?
- The first thing to do is find a dentist that will understand your difficulty and know how to work with you.
- Acknowledge your fears and discuss them with your dentist. If he knows you are tense and nervous, he can take this into consideration.
- There is a psychotherapy treatment called Exposure Therapy. This would be easing your fears of dental visits by taking small steps. You may want to just spend a few minutes in the office to acclimate without actually having any procedures done. When you are comfortable, you can sit down for an exam, and gradually work your way up to feeling comfortable with a typical visit involving x-rays and a cleaning. Baby steps until you feel at ease.
- Ask questions if having answers will ease your concerns.
- There are anti-anxiety medications that help alleviate symptoms, although they are not a cure.
- Sedation Dentistry may be your key. Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures.
- Arrive early for your appointment helps reduce stress.
- Time your dental visit when the office is quieter. Less people and less noise may help you relax a bit. If the noises bother you, you can ask for music to be played or bring noise cancelling headphones with you. Try a little meditation and breathing exercises to calm your nerves.
- Request a longer appointment time, allowing you to take a break if you need it.
- Bring a soothing friend for support.
Dr. Lee Lichtenstein and his highly trained staff offer general dentistry services as well as dental treatments that can be performed using sedation dentistry and general anesthesia techniques to make patients’ experiences more pleasant and comfortable. They routinely work with patients of all ages who are apprehensive and nervous or come with special needs due to physical, emotional, or neurological problems.
Give us a call, come on in for a consultation and learn how you can lay back and enjoy a visit to the dentist.