Dental Phobia and Anxiety – How to Deal With Dentophobia

Dentophobia, or fear of the dentist, is an irrational and real fear that can have serious consequences on your oral health. It can lead to missing appointments, which leads to deteriorating teeth and gum disease.

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Dental anxiety can also affect your mental well-being. Understanding the causes of phobias can help you find solutions.

Origins

Dental phobia or anxiety is an extreme or irrational fear of dentists and a fear of dental treatment. This type of anxiety can lead to avoidance of dental care, which in turn leads to poor oral health and more stress for the patient. This vicious cycle can be difficult to break because of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating dental anxiety.

Dental anxiety and phobia can stem from several different things. Some sources of fear are exogenous, which means that the cause comes from outside the person (for example, a traumatic experience), while others are endogenous, which means that the cause is within the person (for example, personality traits or inheritance).

People who are sensitive to pain may develop a phobia of the dentist because most dental procedures involve some amount of pain. They can also become afraid of needles or other tools used by the dentist or hygienist, or they may feel anxious about the noises that are created during treatment. In addition, people who are extremely embarrassed by their teeth can develop a fear of the dentist and of receiving dental care.

Research has shown that there is a genetic component to dental fear, and people who have parents who have developed a dental phobia are more likely to develop dental fear. Additionally, negative depictions of dentists in movies or on television can contribute to the development of a dental phobia, as well as vicarious learning from significant others or the media.

Symptoms

A person with dental anxiety or phobia will have an intense fear of going to the dentist. This fear can prevent them from going to the dentist even when they are experiencing pain or have other urgent dental needs. It is important for people to seek help for their dental phobia because it can have long-term negative consequences for oral health and well-being.

Common symptoms of dental anxiety or phobia include difficulty sleeping the night before a dental appointment, excessive sweating, a rapid heartbeat and feelings of anxiety when thinking about or talking about a visit to the dentist. It is also common for those with dental anxiety to feel on edge or anxious during and after a dental treatment.

People may be afraid of pain or discomfort from a dental procedure, needles or the noise made by the drills and other tools used during a dental treatment. People who are sensitive to pain have a higher risk of developing dental anxiety or phobia.

The vicious cycle of dental avoidance and poor oral health that results from this can lead to increased risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss and other problems that affect overall health. In addition, the emotional stress of avoiding dental treatments can lead to depression and low self-esteem. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat dental anxiety and phobia.

Treatment

If you avoid going to the dentist because of dental anxiety or phobia, it can negatively impact your oral health. The longer you delay your dental treatment, the more difficult it will be to treat tooth decay, infections, and gum disease. It can also lead to cosmetic issues such as discolored or crooked teeth.

A variety of psychological treatments are available for people who have a fear of the dentist. These techniques include hypnotherapy, psychotherapy (talk therapy), and systematic desensitization. Many people find these techniques helpful and have found that their symptoms improve with time. Psychotherapy may help you understand why you have the phobia and learn ways to manage it.

Other psychological treatments include exposure therapy and coping strategies. During exposure therapy, you gradually face the things that trigger your anxiety, such as visiting the dentist or viewing images of the dentist’s office. You also practice coping skills, such as deep breathing and repeating a calming phrase.

For example, if you are afraid of needles, you might practice with an at-home kit that contains fake needles. You might then move on to a visit with the dentist, who can give you real injections in a safe environment. Some patients find it helpful to bring distractions to their appointments, such as music or a book. Others ask their dentist or hygienist to explain everything before they do it, so there are fewer surprises that can trigger a fearful response.

Prevention

If you’re experiencing anxiety about going to the dentist, it is important to find a solution so that your fear does not keep you from receiving the necessary dental care. Dental phobias can lead to poor oral health, which negatively impacts your overall well-being. Fortunately, there are easy and effective methods for managing dental anxieties and phobias.

In some cases, the aetiology of dental anxiety and fear can be traced back to exogenous factors such as direct learning from traumatic experiences or vicarious learning from significant others and the media, or endogenous factors like personality traits. Nevertheless, it is possible to prevent dentophobia by seeking a more positive attitude toward the dentist early in life and making good oral hygiene a priority.

Other techniques for preventing dentophobia include providing a relaxing environment, and teaching patients relaxation exercises to use during their appointments. Behavioral techniques, such as rewarding patients for successfully completing their treatment plans, also work to reduce fear and increase compliance.

Many people who have mild to moderate dental anxiety can be managed by psychological interventions, but those with extreme anxiety or phobia require more advanced strategies such as graded exposure to the dental setting and the provision of coping strategies. In some cases, anxiolytic drugs or conscious sedation may be necessary. A thorough understanding of the aetiology of dental phobias will allow us to develop targeted management approaches for individuals who suffer from them.