Oral hygiene is an important aspect to achieve overall health. However, the fear surrounding dental treatment is real and sometimes a blocker. Dental phobia can result from various causes, maybe emotions, or even previous bad experiences in obtaining dental treatment.
Phobia in general is any condition with extreme fear of certain things or situations. Some people experience common fears related to dental treatments or visiting a dentist, known as dentophobia or odontophobia.
Dental fear must not be a cause to avoid visiting your dentist or having proper care of your teeth as it can affect your overall health. Though, most people are unable to overcome the fear of visiting a dentist.
To help you overcome odontophobia, here are potential causes and their solutions that can be a good start on the road to superb oral hygiene.
What is Odontophobia?
Odontophobia is a common fear of dentists that can be found in people of all ages from kids to the elderly. There are several underlying causes of dentophobia such as fear of needles (trypanophobia) or fear of doctors (iatrophobia). Depending on the severity of dentophobia, it can lead to more complex issues.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Odontophobia is a type of phobia that triggers dental anxiety for various reasons, such as:
- Previous bad experience
- Fear of needles
- Fear of doctors
To find the best solution, it is important to look out for the root cause of your fear. Your dentist or health care provider can help you with the diagnosis and treatment of your phobias as it varies from person to person.
Here are some insights on the types of dental phobias and how to handle them.
Having a myriad of factors including, depending on the severity of the issue, it varies from person to person. Some people are afraid of just one factor, whereas others can have a fear of all the factors.
This type of phobia is mostly because of a poor experience during a previous treatment instance, which contributes to an ongoing negative perception.
Unlike older times, modern dentistry is highly pain-free, however, there can be a little discomfort too. If you are sensitive to pain, you may come across this type of phobia.
Numbness or Gagging
Having a bad experience with breathing or choking can cause dental fear, especially if it has happened previously. Most patients with such fears find it hard to breathe or swallow with a numb mouth.
Sounds and Smells
The sound of drilling, and that too in the mouth, can be fearsome for some people. Though today’s dental treatments are low-noise, people with a fear of dental sounds or smell find it more frightening than others.
Needle phobias are one key factor which contributes to odontophobia because dentists may use needles to numb your mouth.
Oral health varies from one person to another because of their habits, or influenced by genetics. Some people require frequent dental visits, while for some a yearly visit to the dentist may suffice. Further, despite daily brushing or flossing, some people face issues like cavities or gum disease. If one falls in this category, dental phobia can be particularly concerning to them.
Unattended decay can lead to major issues over time like rotten or missing teeth, which need reconstructive measures like filling or root canal. There is a solution to everything, though, so take as much care as you can.
In today’s world, we are often faced with heightened expectations of beauty. That includes having a shiny smile with bright teeth. People with broken or teeth affected by decay may come across social issues. It may be difficult to have routine conversations in the middle of people, leading to depression, anxiety, and even isolation.
In some advanced cases, dental problems can cause infections and other health issues as well. Failure to treat the root cause could spread, causing illness and even tissue pains. Dentophobia is an issue that is best addressed at an early stage.
For severe dentophobia that is debilitating, it is advisable to consult a professional mental health provider. To treat severe phobias, professionals may use medications, techniques, and cognitive-behavioural therapy that help in reducing the fear.
Visiting a dentist is easier with your fear being under control. The right dentists are also known to be helpful in dealing with phobias. Unlike traditional dental care, modern dentistry is comforting and generally pain-free. However, choose a dentist that offers personalised care to meet your uniqe needs.
You can always speak to your dentists regarding your dental phobia before booking your appointments. Pre-treatment consultation helps in better understanding your condition and offering solutions accordingly. In fact it’s good to develop a rapport without diving straight into a full-fledged oral exam.
Your dentist must work in a close relationship with you to give you control over everything happening around you. Here are a few things you can discuss with your dentists before starting your treatments.
- Use a signal to let your dentist know if you need a break.
- Choose a sign to tell your dentists if you need more sedation.
- Indicate how comfortable you are in your chair.
If you are looking for 100% pain-free dentistry, it is better to speak to your dentist about sedation that lets you sleep during the treatment.
To ensure patients’ comfort, some dentists offer distraction with entertainment like iPads, LCD screens, even Virtual Reality. It helps in making patients relax or distract them for the good.
Dental phobias can lead to physical difficulties, but the good news is that the condition can be treated. Seeking professional help to control your phobia accompanied by a gentle and compassionate dentist significantly impacts your progress over time.
Medications to reduce dental anxiety
The treating professional may or may not prescribe certain medications, depending on the individual case as they see best.
Some common medications are:
Medications are used to lessen the fear, anxiety or stress of visiting a dentist. Along with sedation services, there are anti-anxiety medicines like diazepam (Valium). Dentists may give these medicines to take 1 hour before visiting your dentist.
There are other alternatives to sleep dentistry, nitrous oxide or happy gas sedation. It does not numb your body and limit your function, however, helps in relaxing your nerves. Conscious sedation is used during the treatment only.
This type of sedation is used for more complex and major surgeries. It is given to people with special needs or the ones who cannot be treated otherwise. You may need to tell your dentist if you have any special health concerns, conditions, or medications because general anaesthesia cannot be given to everyone.
All in all, dental phobias are treatable and must be addressed to ensure overall good oral health. With one or a combination of different solutions, dental phobias can be easily contained. Before starting with the treatments, talk to your dentist in-depth. After reviewing the dental history and discussion, he or she will give you the best suggestion.
Even if you are not facing any pain or issues, it is important to visit your dentist on a regular basis. It helps in treating issues at the earliest, preventing painful and complex treatments.
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