Dentophobia: Strategic Ways to Cope With Fear of the Dentist
Your dental health is a very important aspect of your overall health. But, on the other hand, your dental health is equally as important as your fear of the dentist. Several factors may contribute to dentophobia, such as emotions due to worry about the state of your oral health, previous unpleasant experiences you may have had at the dentists’, etc.
For many people, fear may occur in the form of dentophobia. Dentophobia is otherwise referred to as odontophobia. Dentophobia is an irrational or extreme fear of the dentist.
Considering how important your oral health is, it isn’t a wise decision to let your fear of the dentist hold you back from regular dental cleanings and checkups. But then, many people don’t just fancy going to the dentist.
In this article, we will discuss some of the underlying causes of dentophobia, and how you can cope with, and address your fear of the dentist.
Comparing fear and phobia
The terms fear & phobia are used interchangeably in many cases, but both conditions have some outstanding differences between them. Fear refers to a very strong dislike of something – such that can cause avoidance. You usually won’t think of that thing until it presents itself.
Conversely, a phobia is a stronger form of fear. A phobia is defined as a type of anxiety disorder. Studies have shown that phobias cause extreme avoidance and stress, to such an extent that they interfere with one’s daily life.
Another important fact about fear is that it will not cause you any harm, but then, you cannot stop feeling uneasy about it.
Concerning the context of visiting the dentist, fear of the dentist could mean that you are unhappy going to the dentist, and so you try as much as you can to put off all appointments until necessary. You may be unhappy with the sight and sounds of the instruments used by the dentist, but then, you still put up with them.
On the other hand, dentophobia could be so chronic that you avoid the dentist altogether. You get into an anxious state at the mere thought or mention of the dentist. Some people may also experience panic attacks and nightmares.
There may be similarities between factors that cause dentophobia and fear of the dentist. The same applies to treatment. On the other hand, a legitimate fear of the dentist can require many resources to cope with.
What causes dentophobia?
The negative experiences that a person has had in the past are usually the major cause of fear of the dentist. Perhaps you were always scared of the dentist as a child, and sadly, you grew up with these feelings, and they stuck.
Some people aren’t happy with the tools used by dental hygienists and dentists, so the mere thought of these tools can trigger some fears.
Taking a look at the definition, we see that phobia means extreme fear. Extreme fear of the dentist may also be linked to a negative experience. Maybe you experienced some pain, lack of empathy, or discomfort at the dentists’, resulting in an aversion to consulting another dentist. Studies have shown that around 2.7% of men & 4.6% of women suffer dentophobia.
Apart from past experiences, dentophobia may also be caused by concerns that one may have about his or her oral health. Maybe you have bleeding gums or a toothache, or perhaps you’ve not visited a dentist in years and you’re afraid of being told some bad news.
Any of these may contribute to your fear of the dentist.
Treatments for dentophobia
The best way to overcome mild dentophobia is by visiting the dentist. Avoiding your dentist won’t do you any good. If the work to be done by the dentist is enormous, you’ll be sedated so that you will sleep all through the procedure. Although the practice isn’t common in many offices, there are chances that you may be able to see a dentist who will comply with your sedation wishes.
If you have a serious phobia of the dentist, then going to the dentist will be “easier said than done.” The fear of the dentist, just like other phobias, may have some connection with an anxiety disorder, which requires several medications and therapies.
There is no medication to treat dentophobia per se. Rather, you will be given some anti-anxiety medications to ease your symptoms while you’re being treated. The medications can also ease the physical symptoms of your phobia, like high blood pressure.
It is a form of psychotherapy. It is a very effective solution for dentophobia. In exposure therapy, you are made to see the dentist gradually.
Exposure therapy usually starts by visiting the dentist without undergoing any exam. Then gradually, dental practices will be incorporated into your visits until you are well enough to take a full appointment.
Tips that will help you remain calm when at the dentists’
- See your dentist when he or she has a less busy schedule, for instance, early in the morning. They won’t have many guests at that time, so there will be fewer tools at work – tools that could trigger your anxiety. Another thing you should note is that seeing your dentist late amounts to building up your anxieties in anticipation.
- Wear earbuds or noise-canceling headphones with music. It will help you relax.
- When going for an appointment, go with a loved one or a friend.
- Do some deep breathing and other meditation techniques. It will help to calm your nerves.
Most importantly, understand that it is okay if you need to take a break in the course of your visit. You can always signal your dentist ahead of time so that he or she will know when to stop.
Thereafter, you can continue with your visit, or maybe put it off to another day.
How can I find the right dentist?
One of the key qualities of a dentist is his or her ability to understand your aversions and fears. You can always get a recommendation from your loved one, or your doctor. You also have the option of putting calls across and inquiring from prospective offices if they specialize in handling dentophobia cases.
Before going in for a dental procedure, you must book a consultation. This will help you to determine whether the dentist is the understanding kind. Try not to hide your fears from the dentist. Open up to him or her so that they can help you ease up. If the dentist is the right one, they will allay your fears and also accommodate your desires.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.