Despite the fact that a modern dental clinic is a much more relaxed place than its’ equivalent would have been a few decades ago, with an atmosphere more akin to a high end health spa than a medical practice, some people still suffer from fear and anxiety which is so intense that it can amount to dental phobia. Many dentists report that patients can be so frightened of visiting the clinic that their oral health can suffer to a massive degree, with those who avoid regular check-ups being far more prone to problems such as gum disease and infection. The reasons for this phobia may be as simple as an unpleasant experience in the past, particularly if the patient was frightened or hurt by a dentist whilst they were a child, or perhaps the patient has had the misfortune to be treated by a dentist who lacked the sensitivity required when dealing with nervous patients. No matter what the reason for dental phobia, whether it’s based on actual experience or irrational fear of the unknown, it can have a devastating effect upon a person’s dental well-being and, indeed, overall good health.
Whilst the precise details of a dental phobia will vary from person to person, the following are some of the common fears which tend to keep people out of the surgery:
The Unknown The average person doesn’t know a great deal about the way their teeth and gums work, and this is perfectly natural, since that’s what dentists, orthodontists and dental hygienists are there for. At the start of any appointment, even just a check-up, the average patient has no idea what their dentist is going to find and what they’ll suggest doing about it. For any patient who feels uncomfortable with relinquishing control, this lack of knowledge can be enough to trigger feelings of panic.
The Equipment There’s no getting away from the fact that the equipment you’ll see in the average dental surgery can be a little frightening. By definition, the scrapers, spikes, needles and drills present can cause feelings of unease, with the sound of the drill, in particular, being something which many nervous patients find unpleasant to deal with.
Phonophobia Phonophobia is the word for anxiety caused by loud noises. For many patients, even if they’ve had a local anaesthetic administered, and thus can’t feel any pain, the sound of the tools being applied to their teeth, amplified through their head, can trigger intense feelings of anxiety.
The Solution: The specific solution for dental phobia will vary from patient to patient, but there are certain techniques and strategies which have been shown to work over and over again. Perhaps the simplest and most effective of these is to reduce the fear of the unknown by visiting your dentist before you actually have to attend for treatment or a check-up. If your dentist takes the time to explain exactly what your treatment will entail, what each of the tools utilised does and even what it’s called, this will help to reduce the sense of handing over control and venturing into the unknown which so often causes fear and stress. Other specific options include the following:
1) Acupuncture Acupuncture describes the insertion and manipulation of small needles into specific pressure points around the body, and it has been a staple of Eastern medicine for thousands of years. More recently, research has shown that it can be effective in treating pain and nausea and even as a replacement for anaesthetic. Some dentists offer it during treatment as a way of inducing a feeling of tranquillity.
2) Music As stated previously, the most frightening aspect of a visit to the dentist, for many people, lies in the sound made by the equipment, and in particular the drill. Listen to favourite pieces of music whilst undergoing treatment won’t simply drown any unpleasant sounds out, it will also help to inculcate a natural feeling of relaxation in the patient being treated.
3) Deep Breaths One of the side effects of feeling stressed is that a patients breathing can become rushed and shallow. This, in turn, can lead to them feeling more panicked due to a lack of oxygen ,and thus their breathing becoming more difficult, a vicious circle which may spiral into an out and out panic attack. Practicing deep and steady breathing techniques is a simple and natural way of attempting to lower stress levels.
4) Laughter The phrase that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ contains more than a grain of truth, since laughter helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemical, into the system. Enjoying a laugh and a joke with your dentist and the other members of his team will help to reduce any feelings of anxiety.
5) Positive Thinking One way of achieving a deeper sense of relaxation when receiving dental treatment is to try and turn your thoughts inward, running a calming internal monologue and envisioning a positive outcome.
If you find the thought of visiting a dentist terrifying, then book an appointment at a Perfect Smile clinic. Our sympathetic and experienced staff will do everything they can to relax you, assuage your fears and make sure you access the treatment you need and deserve.