The term ‘dentophobia’ pretty much explains itself – it’s the fear of dentists or anything related to dental work. At some point in life (usually childhood), everyone is scared to visit a dentist and for many, this fear carries over into adulthood too.
This could be due to a dental experience gone wrong or just the discomfort associated with dental work. Having to sit still in a dentist’s chair while sharp pointy tools are stuck in our mouth, besides the constant buzzing sound of the drill and that peculiar odor that accompanies dental procedures and continues as an aftermath, can be quite unnerving!
What Causes Dentophobia?
Patients with dentopobia tend to avoid dental treatment at all costs, at least till an emergency that requires immediate treatment. The factors known to cause dentophobia can be both direct and indirect experiences that instill a fear, which can be disastrous in the long run.
- Indirect Causes – Indirect causes can stem from hearing about horrid experiences from family and friends. The way dentistry is portrayed in the various forms of media can also go a long way in traumatizing children and adults alike. Children grow up watching cartoons where dentists torture their patients even in animated settings. Doctors in white coats with bright lights overhead naturally end up signaling danger in pretty much every movie on screen too!
- Direct Causes – Then of course there are the direct causes in the form of painful root canals, extractions and even cavity filling, that program the mind against opting for dental treatment. A past experience can bring back bad memories that lead people to avoid seeing a dentist altogether at least till it’s the last resort.
Dental health varies dramatically from person to person – some people can last years without a trip to the dentist with no negative consequences, while others suffer pain simply by indulging in desserts or drinking cold water.
Possible Symptoms and Effects of Dentophobia
Here are some of the common symptoms and effects associated with this condition:
- Dentophobia is a common fear amongst both children and adults, ranging from mild to severe and can also be exaggerated with the added fears of needles, doctors, hospitals and pain in general.
- Patients with severe dentophobia are easily susceptible to a full-fledged panic attack simply at the mention of the term dentist. They feel nauseated, scared and might even break down crying.
- Escapism is the most general symptom wherein people avoid a trip to the dentist for even general checkups, which leads to unhealthy decaying teeth, raking a higher dentist bill in the future besides a prolonged fear of intensive dental work as a result.
- Bad teeth can cause social havoc, leaving a person feeling insecure, lonely and depressed. It could have a negative impact on ones self-esteem which can in turn affect their work and personal relationships.
According to research, an estimated 75% of adults have a certain degree of dental fear, with women more likely to fear dental work than men.
Various Means of Treating and Overcoming Dentophobia
Since tooth decay can only get worse over time, it’s necessary to take the required steps to manage dentophobia in order to retain healthy teeth and gums:
- Seeking professional assistance is essential to overcome the anxiety caused by dentophobia. Applied gentle dentistry is known for certain practices that aid in regulating anxiety by playing soft music or using a stress ball during ongoing treatment.
- Hypnotherapy is another format that allows a serious dentophobia patient to attain the necessary treatment without having to suffer the fear of dentistry by reprograming the mind and eradicating the fear.
- Various psychologists also recommend deep breathing relaxation methods before and after treatments to calm the nerves and control anxiety to be able to sit through a necessary treatment.
It’s best not to take a chance with oral health, and preventative measures like regular dental checkups are the only way to stay on top of it!