Dentophobia: Fear Of The Dentist Or Something Else?

fear of the dentist

Do you know anyone who loves to visit his or her dentist? We can probably presume that not a single one of you treats dental visits like a walk in the park. Many would claim to have fear of the dentist because of so many reasons: the expensive fees, uncomfortable treatments, and the thought of just being scared of choosing a bad dentist. Do you know where this fear of the dentist originated from?

Dentophobia or Fear of the dentist

childhood dental fears

For some, dental fear and dental phobia are terms that people use interchangeably. Turning something you fear into a form of phobia gives it more emphasis and justifies the feeling. However, we have to differentiate them since one is more serious and can become a psychological condition that can cause a medical issue.

When you have fear of going to the dentist, you dislike the thought and circumstance of seeing your dentist and performing your dental procedure. It may be from your past experiences, or the uneasy feeling you got while listening to the whirring of the dental machines. You then avoid point to the dentist altogether. But, if put in a situation where you have no choice but to undergo a dental procedure, you just stick to it and put up with the things you hate without disrupting your dental visit.

Dental phobia or dentophobia is way different. Elevate your fear to a numbing and paralyzing state, and you get dentophobia. You cannot schedule your own dental appointment because just the thought of it gives you an anxiety attack.  The days leading to your schedule leave you unproductive, and it interferes with your daily routine. You may present nightmares, panic attacks, and irritability before and during your appointment.

Fear of the dentist: The Causes

No matter how hard we explain that fear of the dentist cannot be justified, many people still use it as an excuse to skip dental appointments and procedures. Many of us would relate a negative past experience that made us scared to go to the dentist. Some may attribute this unhealthy fear to the sight and sounds of the dental instruments.

Past dental experience

childhood dental fears

Just like adults, kids need to visit their dentists regularly for monitoring and preventive procedures. Dentists all over the world want to educate parents to find time in making sure that their kids see their dentists regularly.

Invasive dental procedures

Past experiences with dentists as you grow older often get characterized by pain, bleeding, and change in appearance. Tooth extractions, deep cleaning, and orthodontics may make you feel threatened with your own safety. Discomfort, sensitivity, and physical change in your appearance may warrant your fear of going back to the dentist.

The deafening sound of the dental instruments

Imagine watching a movie without any sound to it. Is it as scary as watching it with the eerie sound? No, right? That’s because the sound and atmosphere add to the feeling of discomfort and fear in any stage and uneasy situation. With dental procedures, the look of the sharp and weird instruments that dentists use inside our mouths already increases our dread of dental clinics. Team it up with the whirring and deafening noises of the cleaning tools and machines, and you will surely succeed in scaring off patients.

The cost

This may sound superficial and ridiculous, but the thought of spending a lot on a dental procedure scares many patients and parents as well. The wrong perspective about dental appointments is less important than your medical ones should be blamed. We usually think that having a dentist monitor our dental health becomes a waste of money.

We would rather see our primary care physician and get ‘more important’ checkups than for your teeth and gums. But, unfortunately, this makes spending more to maintain the health and beauty of your smile so hard to do, to the point that you give in to your fear of seeing your dentist.

Knowing where your dental health stands

Another misconception we have about going to the dentist is to present yourself when you feel something wrong with your dental comfort, bite, or teeth alignment. Unfortunately, many kids relate dental visits to tooth extractions, uncomfortable cleaning, and many others. This could have been prevented if you see your dentist before any problem arise.

How to Address Fear of the Dentist

You possibly have a toothache or bleeding gums, or maybe you just haven’t been to the dentist in several months or years and are afraid of receiving bad news.

Well, you may think that addressing your fear of the dentist requires very little effort. But how do we get over dentophobia or simple fear of the dentist?

Exposure

Parents, as unforgiving as it may sound, do not tolerate their kids’ qualms about visiting their dentist. With their dental health in mind, parents would insist on making dental appointments even if kids are scared. Their constant and regular exposure to the dentist opens and helps them adjust and get used to the atmosphere. Many doctors refer to this as exposure therapy or desensitization.

Consistency

Dentists advocate regular visits to their office for monitoring and prevention or early detection of dental issues or problems. Instead of going to the dentist only when you cannot stand the pain and discomfort, visiting your dentist for simple check-ups eases the mind that not all dental visits are uncomfortable and expensive.

Treatment Options

sedation as relaxation medication

Mild fears with seeing the dentist are best remedied by going to the dentist instead of avoiding it. In the case of significant dental work, you may ask to be sedated, so you’re not awake during the procedure. While not common practice in all offices, you may be able to find a dentist who can accommodate your sedation wishes.

Medication

Medications will not take care of dentophobia by themselves. However, certain types of anti-anxiety medications may alleviate symptoms as you are working through exposure therapy. These can also ease some of the more physical symptoms of your phobia, such as high blood pressure.

Trust your Dentist

Let’s face it; you will feel more nervous if you see a new dentist than the one you were used to. Why? Because you already feel safe and comfortable with his techniques and care. The characteristic a good dentist has to have involves making his patients feel comfortable and at ease before, during, and after any dental procedure.

Whether you require an invasive and complicated dental treatment, or your child has to have his regular cleaning and fluoride varnish application, a caring dentist treats you as if these procedures are the same.

Psych Yourself

feeling comfortable during dental visits

No one can really help you better in controlling yourself than yourself. But, in all honesty, your thoughts feed your fear, making you uncomfortable, fidgety, and nervous.

Whether you’re ready to face your fear full-on or you’re getting ready for exposure therapy to gradually see the dentist, the following tips can help you stay calm during your appointment:

  • Go early. See the dentist at a less busy time of day, such as the morning hours. There will be fewer people, but also fewer tools making noises that could trigger your anxiety. Also, the later you see your dentist, the more time your anxieties will build up in anticipation.
  • Block the sounds. Bring noise-canceling headphones or earbuds with music to help you relax.
  • Be with someone. Ask a friend or a loved one to accompany you during your appointment.
  • Breathe. Practice deep breathing and other meditation techniques to calm your nerves.
  • Ask for a break. You have to know that it’s OK if you need a break at any point during your visit. It can be helpful to establish a “signal” with your dentist ahead of time, so they know when to stop. You can then either continue with your visit when you’re ready or come back another day when you feel better.

Whether you feel anxious or plain nervous about going to the dentist, one thing should stay in your mind – it is the fact that dental appointments are as necessary as medical ones. Therefore, whatever hinders you from going to the dentist should be dealt with as soon as possible, so you would not compromise your dental health.

References:

Why the Fear of Dentists Is so Common

https://www.verywellmind.com/dentophobia-fear-of-dentists-2671855

How to Cope with a Fear of the Dentist

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/fear-of-dentist

Don’t Fear the Dentist

https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dont-fear-the-dentist

Fear of the dentist

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/fear-of-the-dentist-help/

My fear of the dentist

https://www.dentalhealth.org/my-fear-of-the-dentist

Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586885/

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