If you’re afraid to go to the dentist — you’re not alone.
The fear or phobia of dental appointments can be the most common cause of anxiety. Some people don’t look forward to dental appointments anymore. Adding on to that, they say: “I don’t like the dentist or I hate the dentist”. There can be many reasons of why people fear dental treatments, for example, it could be fear of embarrassment about the condition of teeth, gagging, injections, fear of loss of control, fear of not becoming numb when injected, pain, the dentist as a person, handpiece (drill) and many more.
A dental phobic — or odontophobic person, mostly visualise the dentist as a wielding man or woman in a white coat just waiting to cause them pain. The reality, however, is very different. Most of the dental procedures aren’t painful. The comfort, relaxation, and happiness of the patient are the primary focus of any good dental practice. The staff at the practice will do whatever they can to reduce anxiety, fears, and provide painless treatments.
Many of us use the term “anxiety” and “phobia” to mean the same thing, but they are different. Phobia is a type of anxiety. It’s an irrational, unreasonable fear of an object or situation. The reasons behind why a person might develop dental anxiety will differ depending on the individual, but it’s often thought this type of worry will be focused around negative childhood memories where it then becomes a phobic disorder or known as a specific phobia. When the anxiety they experience is so strong, it interferes with their quality of life or their ability to function.
Therefore, the thought of visiting a dentist itself is terrifying for those with dental phobia. They may be so frightened, that they’ll do just anything to avoid dental appointment. The outcome of dental phobia sometimes can be very sad. It can lead to gum disease, teeth cavities, early loss of teeth, pain etc. It can also cause emotional disturbances and decrease of self-esteem. This is because people sometimes feel insecure and feel embarrassed with discoloured or damaged teeth leading them to smile less or speak with the mouth partly closed.
Many of us don’t know that oral health is the window to the overall health. Poor oral health has been found to be related to some life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease and lung infections. In general, people with dental phobia can suffer from poor oral health, poor general health and poor self-esteem leading to poor quality of personal and professional life.
So can you overcome dental anxiety or dental phobia for a better health and lifestyle? The answer is YES. Dental phobia 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.
Thankfully, more and more dentists are understanding their patients’ fears, so the first step to banishing your phobia is to make a dental appointment and to talk with the dentist. Let them know how anxious you are about visiting a dentist. You can tell the dental care representative who answers the phone you have a dental phobia. The better the communication, the better the dentist can address any dental fears or anxiety. Additionally, you could request and ask certain things to ease out the situation if necessary.
For example :
- If you need something to hold on to during the treatment, you could request for soft blankets and televisions on the ceiling. Ask about wearing headphones to block out the sound of the dental equipment.
- If you are experiencing any discomfort during the treatment, raise your hand to let the dentist know. He or she will stop working and you can tell him what is wrong.
- Ask to take a break. If you start to feel anxious, it might be best to take a short break.
- Discuss sedation dentistry. Most dentists provide nitrous oxide sedation (laughing gas) which may help you calm down during the treatment.
- You could also think of bringing a friend for moral support!
As a dental professional, my kind advice to all those who fear dental treatments is not to let the fear of the unknown keep you from having a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile. Receiving regular dental check-ups and cleanings is incredibly important. Having regular routine check-ups is the easiest way to maintain excellent oral hygiene and reduce the need for more complex treatments. Book a dental appointment now so you could be over and done with any problems as soon as possible. A healthy smile is a beautiful smile!
About the Contributor
Dr. Yogesh is a diligent dentist at Dutamas Dental Clinic with 4 years of extensive experience in oral and maxillofacial surgery and paediatric dentistry. A warm-hearted and friendly lady with a sweet smile, Dr. Yogesh has spoken to us about nitrous oxide or The Laughing Gas to help with your anxiety. Also, read what Dr. Yogesh has to say about teeth whitening here.
Dutamas Dental Clinic
A3-1-8, Publika, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-6206 3554
Mobile: 019-244 0653
*All images, unless stated, courtesy of Dutamas Dental. Featured picture via Williams Lake Smiles.