Dentophobia, or the fear of dentists, is surprisingly common. It can be mild or severe, in some cases causing sufferers to avoid even crucial dental work. When untreated, dentophobia can have devastating consequences to your oral and overall physical health.
Dentophobia can be broken down into several specific fears. Some people have just one fear, but most sufferers have at least two. Severe dentophobia often involves most or all of these fears simultaneously.
- • “The Dentist”: Like “The IRS” and “The DMV,” “The Dentist” is often seen as cold and uncaring, or even sadistic. Those who have had previous negative dental experiences are at the greatest risk for this specific fear.
- • Pain: At one time, painless dentistry was impossible to achieve. Modern techniques have rendered most procedures virtually pain-free, but a slight amount of discomfort is common. If you are extremely sensitive to oral pain, you might be afraid that the pain will be unbearable.
- • Mouth Numbness: It is true that having your mouth numbed feels odd, and people with this specific fear worry that they will be unable to swallow or even breathe. You are more likely to develop this fear if you have previously experienced choking or trouble breathing, whether in or out of the dentist’s chair.
- • Sights, Sounds, and Smells: If you have had a previous bad experience with the dentist, your fear might be triggered by the general atmosphere of the dentist’s office. Many people name the sound of the drill as their number one fear.
- • Needles: Trypanophobia, or the fear of needles, is also incredibly common. If you suffer from this fear, you are likely afraid of the injections used to numb your mouth.
Complications of Dentophobia
Dental health is highly individual, so the results of dentophobia vary dramatically from person to person. Some people can make it for years without seeing a dentist, while others are at risk from just one missed appointment.
Either way, there is no question that dental disease progresses over time. What starts as a tiny cavity could eventually lead to a rotten and broken tooth. This means more invasive dental procedures, if the tooth can be saved at all, and facing these procedures could make you even less inclined to see the dentist.
There are also social consequences to neglecting your teeth. If yours are broken and rotted, you might have trouble getting certain jobs, finding dates, and feeling confident around your friends. This can lead to isolation, depression, and increasing social anxiety.
In addition, worsening dental issues lead to infection. Infected teeth and gums hurt, and the infection can eventually spread to the rest of your body. This can lead to overall unwellness and even raise your risk for heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Coping with Dentophobia
Fortunately, modern dentistry offers several solutions for managing the fear of the dentist. If your fear is relatively minor, consider bringing a portable music system or DVD player. Simply relaxing into good music or your favorite movie can help you relax.
Schedule an initial consultation with the dentist, without planning for any work to be done. Discuss your fear, and ask the dentist for suggestions. You might be able to set up a hand signal to show the dentist that you need a break, and a different signal to ask for more local anesthesia. You can even discuss the tilt of the chair and the order of the work to be performed. Just knowing that you retain some control can make a big difference in how you’re feeling.
Sedation dentistry is another wonderful option. From nitrous oxide to take the edge off, through deep IV sedation that will render you largely asleep for the procedure, sedation dentistry can help you remain calm and relaxed throughout your experience.
If you have a severe and paralyzing fear, you might consider consulting with a mental health professional. Hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques can help you kick the fear for good, rather than simply trying to manage its effects.
Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.