So what exactly is Dental Anxiety?
So, you have your next Dentist appointment and that’s scaring the hell out of you. You don’t think the dentist and human beings have anything in common. Well, you are a victim of Dental Anxiety (Dental Phobia). Dental Anxiety is the fear of receiving dental care or the fear of Dentist himself. Just the thought of visiting a dentist might be enough to instill a deep sense of fear in the affected person.
A large percentage of people: 75% of people feel some degree of dental anxiety while visiting the dentist. 20% of these will only visit the dentist if they are in extreme pain have a dental emergency.5% of these people so gripped by dental phobia that they will avoid dental care at all costs.
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Plenty of causes can cause Dental anxiety such as
Prior Experiences: Most people affected by Dental Anxiety tend to complain about horrifying experiences from a certain Dentist which includes the psychological aspects (such as humiliation or mocking) apart from the actual physical pain involved.
The immediate surroundings: If you are a Dental Phobic, it’s highly likely that your children will also pick that up. Our perception of most things is based on how the people close to us feel about it. Hence, another major reason for Dental anxiety is by picking it up from the people around us.
Bad experience of others: Your best friend got a root canal done and just hearing the stress and pain she had to undergo makes you cry .Stories circulate easily how a certain “X’ said that RCT is so painful that he would rather die than get a root canal done.
Embarrassment: You feel your teeth are the worst in the world and know for sure the dentist is really gonna give it to you when he sees your teeth. People tend to be embarrassed on their condition and not willing to open up on the issue-even to their dentist.
Uncaring Dentist: A really uncaring dentist can put most people off and instill hate for the dentist and dental care. Some dentist seem to quite uncaring by mocking the patient on their state or even humiliating them by sarcastic remarks.
Lack of Control: Some people cannot be put in the dentist chair simply due to the lack of control they have. They do not appreciate the dentists control over them instructing them what to do, putting weird things in their mouth etc.
Understanding Dental Anxiety
Well, Let us analyze these fears. Are they valid and to what extent?
People who have dental phobia have a valid reason for their fear and that is well acknowledged.People who have had bad experiences despise dentistry altogether and believe it for sure that all the dentist can cause is pain. What the person does not realize is that the day they had there painful treatment done, the other 100 or so who got the same treatment done the same day had no problems whatsoever. He just happened to be one out of hundred who had a bad day.
Let’s think of this way. You fell down the stairs today and hurt yourself. Now you aren’t gonna quit going down stairs just coz you fell today. This is coz you know for a fact that today just happened to be bad day and it does not happen every time.
People who impart their fear from their surroundings just associate dentistry with pain. This can be really bad for children since they tend to be affected the most and retain this fear life long. People who tell us of their terrifying experience during their wisdom tooth extraction sure don’t tell us there were 10 other patients who got the same treatment done that day with no problems. Also, Humans tend to exaggerate emotions like pain, fear, hatred or love and hence person might end up expressing a really bad experience where in reality it wasn’t that bad.
So, you constantly hear about people’s horrifying experiences and it makes sense to you that so many people can’t be lying. Did you watch the news today? There was a terrible plane crash that killed 67 passengers. Damn! Should people quit flying ? NO!
There were other million flights that reached their destination safely and the news sure did not mention this just because it’s normal and not news worthy. People tend to reflect on bad experiences and no one would be running around telling how they had a painless procedure done by a dentist.
Some people tend to be extremely sensitive and a single bad remark by a dentist can deepen their already existing fear of dentist. The dentist might not be altogether at fault either. It could just have been a casual remark but the patient took it otherwise. Such patients need to be treated with care.
People who think their teeth are the worst need to think again. The dentist treats patients with varying degree of problems. He has definitely seen teeth worse than you and treat them on a daily basis.
How Dentists eliminate pain and discomfort?
A comforting aspect might be to know how the dentist eliminates the pain.If you haven’t been to the dentist since the 1990’s, be informed that dentistry has evolved extensively and the modern dentist can perform most procedures with little or no pain. If you fear pain you should know what a dentist does to reduce or eliminated the pain.
Using Local Anesthetics:
For procedures such as a root canal or a wisdom tooth extraction, a local anesthetic is used. These make you insensitive to the pain. It works by blocking the nerve which is responsible for the actual feeling of pain.
Laughing Gas is commonly used for relaxing patients who might feel anxious.
Using Modern Techniques:
Dentistry is a constantly evolving field and new innovative ways are developed that are effective and less discomforting for the patients. One such example is the scaling procedure. There were no machines previously to do the tooth cleaning procedure and dentist had to rely on hand held instruments to remove tartar deposits from the patient’s teeth. This manual procedure tended to be quite discomforting and now we have machines that do all the work quickly, effectively and with minimal discomfort.
FINE! I have Dental Anxiety. Now what to do?
The first step in treating any problem is acknowledging it in the first place. Now, you need to disassociate the word “pain” with dentistry. Many people anticipate the pain which instills fear in them. Quite a few patients are surprised by how painless and easy the treatment was.
Dentists are well trained to handle anxious patients and hence you need to voice your concern. Let the dentist know that you are uncomfortable and what uncomforts you and he will do the best he can to relax you and address your concerns.
Treating Dental Anxiety
Dental Anxiety is a learned behavior(due to various factors) and it can be unlearned by behavioral and cognitive treatments.
Behavioral treatments include relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
Cognitive techniques include cognitive restructuring and guided imagery.
There are various dentists who specialize in treating fearful patients and you can find them to be extremely relaxing and comforting and they are very successful in treating most patients.