While you may not realize it, dentophobia is a real condition that negatively affects at least ten, sometimes twenty percent of the American population.
What is dentophobia?
Dentophobia is the fear of going to the dentist. According to recent studies, roughly ten percent of the population suffers from dentophobia, while up to twenty perfect of people feel extremely anxious about visiting the dentist. There is a strong correlation between children and parents who suffer from dentophobia, but a cause has yet to be determined.
Dentophobia is a cyclical process because those who fear the dentist will delay seeking treatment. Delaying treatment leads to increased dental pain and worsening dental conditions. This creates the need for symptom-driven treatment, something that those with dentophobia cannot seek giving them more dental fear.
- There are several different ways to measure the severity of dentophobia, often it is a combination of two or more of the following elements:
- The idea of the dentist being cold, unfeeling, or sadistic
- Pain associated with visiting the dentist, especially for those with sensitive mouths
- Fear of being unable to breathe or swallow due to numbness or gagging
- Sensitivity to the foreign sounds and smells of the dentist’s office
- Fear of needles or the other cold, sharp, metal dental instruments
It could kill me?
Unfortunately, yes. Dentophobia can have extremely detrimental consequences on your health. In studies done of those with dentophobia, the results of dentophobia are shocking. Psychologically, people develop social anxiety leading to isolation, depression, and even agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house) because of the condition of their teeth. People who suffer from dentophobia often have rotting, decaying, broken, and painful teeth because of their inability to see the dentist.
Leaving rotting and decaying teeth in your mouth causes infections and periodontal diseases. It has been proven that poor dental and periodontal health can cause serious medical issues such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
How do I get over it?
So far there have been three effective treatments found to help patients with dentophobia. In addition to having appointments with a dentist that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. The best way to think about going to the dentist is that you’re just going to have a talk with another person just like you who happened to study something different in school. It’s also a good idea to let the dentist know you are nervous, that way everyone understands the emotional situation in the room. Some dentists, such as Dr. Park at Saratoga Springs Dentistry, excel in treating fearful patients.
Here are some other ways to help you cope with your dentophobia and get the treatment your teeth need.
- Visit the dentist with a close friend or relative that isn’t scared of the dentist. Have them go with you, sit with you, and even hold your hand if you need. Having an empathetic support system that doesn’t share your fear can be relaxing and give you a sense of confidence.
- Meditation or hypnosis have found to be extremely effective coping mechanisms for certain people. Breathing deeply slows down your heartbeat and relaxes your muscles, allowing your body to relax and adjust to the situation without triggering your natural “fight or flight” reaction. Some people have learned that the best way to relax their body for dental appointments is to undergo professional hypnosis. This allows them to loosen up and calmly sit in the chair throughout the appointment.
- Explore sedative options while this option can be dangerous if done incorrectly, sedatives can be an effective treatment of dentophobia. Although this should be a last resort because a high frequency of sedatives can damage your body. Additionally, many dentists don’t use sedatives as often as their predecessors did. If a dentist is uncomfortable administering sedatives for treatment, do not push that dentist to treat anyways. Instead, we suggest exploring different options or different dentists.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a common psychological treatment for people who suffer from recurring or obsessive thoughts and fears. If you are open and willing to commit to the therapy, it can be incredibly effective. The length of therapy is determined subjectively between you and your therapist.
Let Us Help
At Saratoga Springs Dentistry, we intimately understand the pain and anxiety that accompanies dentophobia. We’re a kind, compassionate, caring team that is patient and willing to work with you in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Your dental care is our first priority and we don’t feel that you should have to sacrifice feeling safe in order to receive high-quality care. Contact us when you feel ready to schedule an appointment, we look forward to seeing you and showing you how great an experience dental care can be.