Dental Tips Blog

Nov
8

Dealing with Dental Phobia

Many people experience some apprehension about going to the dentist, but when the anxiety is so extreme as to be irrational and pathological, then a dental phobia is present. Dental phobia is characterized by severe anxiety about going to the dentist and receiving dental treatment. People with this phobia avoid dentists at all costs, often putting off routine dental care for years. If they do manage to show up for their dental appointment, they may experience a panic attack or become physically sick in the waiting room.

Dental phobia is a serious problem since it causes individuals to forgo the dental care necessary for maintaining good oral and general physical health. Poor oral health as a direct consequence of dental phobia makes individuals more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and premature tooth loss, as well as potentially fatal conditions like heart disease, pancreatic cancer and lung disease. Individuals with dental phobia also risk the chance of suffering from psycho-social issues related to their poorly maintained teeth.

Here are some methods for dealing with dental phobia.

  • Hypnosis – Professional hypnotherapy induces a trance state in which a person is deeply relaxed and more open to suggestions. It can be used to recondition the mind, helping the patient to eliminate subconscious fears and visualize positive outcomes. Hypnotherapy also taps into the power of the mind to control pain responses during dental procedures.
     
  • Sleep dentistry – Individuals with dental phobia often fare much better if they are partially or fully asleep during dental treatment. Sleep dentistry uses nitrous oxide (laughing gas), intravenous sedation, general anaesthesia or oral sedation to induce sleep in patients.
  • Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help individuals with dental phobia reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
  • Distraction techniques – Today, more and more dental practices are offering distraction amenities such as noise-cancelling music headphones, television, video games, and even immersive virtual reality in the dentist chair. Audiovisual distractions help reduce fear and anxiety by blocking out the noise of dental tools and taking the patient’s mind off the treatment.
  • Therapy – Professional mental health counseling may be necessary for some individuals to overcome dental phobia. Through cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, and support groups, phobic individuals can gain insight into the root of their problem and develop practical skills for coping. Another effective psychotherapeutic technique is systematic desensitization whereby individuals are taught relaxation skills and progressively learn to face their fears.

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