Let’s be honest- seeing a dentist is definitely the least favourite appointments on our to do list. Most dental procedures aren’t painful. However, just a simple routine examination can become the most horrific experience for an anxious patient or some who suffers from dental phobia. They may be so frightened, that they’ll do just about anything to avoid a dental appointment.
A phobia is an intense, unreasonable fear. People can fear a specific activity, object or situation. People with dental phobia often put off routine care for years or even decades. To avoid it, they’ll put up with gum infections (periodontal disease), pain, or even broken and unsightly teeth. Patients with dental phobia also may suffer from poorer health in general, and even lower life expectancy. This is because poor oral health has been found to be related to some life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease and lung infections.
Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common- about 30 million to 40 million people suffer across the world. . In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of those who didn’t see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.
People often use the words “anxiety” and “phobia” to mean the same thing, but they are different.
Those with dental anxiety will have a sense of uneasiness when it’s time for their appointments. They’ll have exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears. Dental phobia is a more serious condition. It’s an intense fear or dread. People with dental phobia aren’t merely anxious. They are terrified or panic stricken. People with dental phobia have a higher risk of gum disease and early tooth loss. Some people can become so embarrassed about how their teeth look that their personal and professional lives begin to suffer. Damaged, discoloured teeth can cause embarrassment and significantly lower self-esteem.
Dental phobia, like other mental disorders, can be treated. Without treatment, dental phobia is likely to get worse over time. That’s partly because emotional stress can make dental visits more uncomfortable than they need to be.
People who are unusually tense tend to have a lower pain threshold. This means they may feel pain at lower levels than other people. They may need extra anaesthetic or other pain treatments. They may even develop stress-related problems in other parts of the body. For example, they may have headaches or muscle stiffness in the neck or back.
There isn’t a clear distinction that separates “normal” anxiety from phobia. Everyone has fears and concerns and copes with them in different ways. However, the prospect of dental work does not need to fill you with terror. If it does, then you may need some help overcoming the fears. Remember, always let your dentist know how you’re feeling. We are here to help.
Some of the signs of dental phobia include:
• You feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam.
• You get increasingly nervous while you’re in the waiting room.
• You feel like crying when you think of going to the dentist. The sight of dental increases your anxiety.
• The thought of a dental visit makes you feel physically ill.
• You panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental appointment.
If this describes you, you need to tell your dentist about your feelings, concerns and fears. He or she will help you overcome these feelings by changing the way you are treated. You also may be referred to a mental health professional.
Causes of Dental Anxiety and Phobia:
Pain — In a survey of people who had not seen a dentist for 12 months, 6% reported fear of pain as the main reason. The fear of pain is most common in adults 24 years and older. This may be because their early dental visits happened before many of the advances in “pain-free” dentistry.
Feelings of helplessness and loss of control — Many people develop phobias about situations — such as flying in an airplane — in which they feel they have no control. When they’re in the dental chair, they have to stay still. They may feel they can’t see what’s going on or predict what’s going to hurt. It’s common for people to feel helpless and out of control, which may trigger anxiety.
Embarrassment — The mouth is an intimate part of the body. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed to have a stranger looking inside. This may be a particular problem if they’re self-conscious about how their teeth look. Dental treatments also require physical closeness. During a treatment, the hygienist’s or dentist’s face may be just a few inches away. This can make people anxious and uncomfortable.
Negative past experiences — Anyone who has had pain or discomfort during previous dental procedures is likely to be more anxious the next time around.