Dental Phobia simply means ‘fear of going to a dentist’. It is synonymous with Dentophobia and Odontophobia. It can be classified into three different stages.
1. Dental fear, which is just a normal emotional reaction to something in a dental situation.
2. Dental anxiety, which is a state of apprehension that something horrible is going to happen when going to the dental clinic and so the person has a feeling of losing control.
3. Dental Phobia, is the most extreme type of dental anxiety,characterised by persistent fear in relation to a dental procedure, environment, instruments or dental setting in general.
Sufferers will Commonly experience one or more of then following symptoms;
Sleepless nights before the visit
Palpitation, trembling & tremor
Elevated or reduced blood pressure
Nausea , hypotension, fainting
Urge to urinate more often
Nervousness while in the waiting room
Crying and feeling physically ill at the thought of a dentist
Feeling of suffocation & urge to gag, at the thought of instruments or object in the mouth.
People with Dental Phobia are totally aware that the fear is absolutely irrational, but they can’t do much to avoid it.They get super paranoid at the very thought of a dentist & will do everything possible to avoid them. As a result, their oral health is neglected, which may lead to painful dental problems & eventually forced emergency visit to a dentist.. This gives rise to a cycle of dental fear which keeps on worsening!
GENERAL CAUSES OF DENTAL PHOBIA
Dental anxiety or phobia typically starts in childhood & can be the result of various factors.
Previous traumatic experience with a dentist
Hearing from friends & family about their negative experience with dentists
Verbal threats by adults specially parents, where a ‘visit to the dentist’, is used as a threat or punishment for disobedience.
Dental fear in parents.
Fear of needles or something being inserted into the mouth.
Feeling of loss of control or helplessness
An uncomfortable/embarrassed feeling because of the physical closeness of the dentist.
Scare of sounds & smells in the clinic
Dentophobia is a very common & treatable problem.. There are tons of technique & management that works differently for different individuals.
Distraction technique can be quite useful to divert the patients attention. This can be done through television or music or making the patient focus on another body part, such as wiggling the toes or fingers. Soft music, dimmer light & cooler temperature has a calming effect. Many People like to bring a portable music player during their treatment, which distracts them & helps them to relax. A pleasant smell in the dental clinic and muscle relaxation therapy can also help.
The key to coping with dental anxiety however, is to talk to your dentist about your fears. That way he/she will try to make you more comfortable. The dentist can schedule an initial consultation appointment without full examination, to make you feel at ease. He would try not to make you wait in the waiting room for too long & during the procedure , would explain whats happening at every stage and would familiarise the patient using demonstrations.. You can even work out a signal such as raising your hand, when you want the dentist to stop . However, these simple techniques sometimes do not help & the patents has to see a mental health professional first ,to bring the phobia under control. CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy )and hypnosis may be useful in certain people, whereas others might have to resort to sedative drugs before treatment, with or without conscious sedation or general anesthesia!