Fear of the Dentist by Advanced Dental Services. Dentistry Dental in Spain.

Every seventh adult in the world, no matter where they are from, suffers from one or another form of fear of the dentist. If you are one of these people, then you should be aware of the following.

Dental phobia, or fear of the dentist and fear of dental treatment as well as dental treatment related panic is equal to a reduced quality of life. This is because the treatment of oral illness, decaying teeth and abscesses is prevented, which in turn has a negative effect on eating habits, oral hygiene, health, comfort (pain), self-confidence (less social contact) and self-image (patients experience a feeling of worthlessness). In very severe cases, the affected person may seek reassurance in the abuse of alcohol, drugs, or pain killers, while their depression can lead to social isolation and prevention of any intimacy. From the viewpoint of a patient, their fear of the dentist is a legitimately life-threatening situation, and the fact that this dental phobia will cause their social life to crumble leads to an unbearable internal conflict.

In the last few decades, various approaches have been developed in the USA and Europe to reduce and finally eradicate this fear of the dentist, or dental phobia, where people avoid undergoing dental treatment for any oral illnesses.

Fear of the dentist is a psychological problem

Psychologists have therefore developed studies that had very promising methods to fight and eliminate any doubt in a patient’s mind that they could not trust their dentist, or that they might receive improper treatment from under-qualified assistants, which would then result in irreparable nerve damage. Other fears that patients with fear of the dentist suffer from include: a feeling of helplessness, having to lie in a position with the dentist towering above them (humiliation), the fear to be seen as a coward, and the resulting fear of sharing these fears and misgivings. There is also the feeling of shame and disgrace of having to reveal your not so perfect mouth, and therefore face to the world. Aside from all that, a patient with fear of the dentist also has to deal with the uncomfortable thought of letting a stranger work on one of the most sensitive areas of their body with metal and electronic devices. The patient is afraid of having to deal with a highly qualified, socially important, well-off, perhaps even arrogant and cold professional. And there is also the fear of the dentist’s possible scorn for his patients because of their less than perfect physical, aesthetic, financial, social and psychological condition. Psychologists find it valuable to help patients with fear of the dentist by explaining the rundown of events involved in their dental treatment in such a way, that the patient understands which nerves will be temporarily agitated. To fight the fear of the dentist in every field which it affects, including implantology, psychologists work with people from every field of dentistry, including dental technicians, dentists, implantologists, dental surgeons, etc. Various organisations and groups in the dental field and their social representatives are becoming aware of what fear of the dentist really means and are developing programs to suit the individual and unique sub-phobias of the patients. They then offer these programs to the general public to help make trips to the dentist panic-free. These groups are not just stakeholders in the respective dental and surgical practices; their goal is to raise awareness and promote oral health in general to the highest possible level through public service. A successful study released ten years ago proved that within the fight against dental phobia and fear of the dentist lies a useful tool. A higher percentage of the population will be able to take advantage of the dental industry, allowing the individual’s quality of life to be significantly improved.

Practical Tips for Fear of the Dentist

Many dentists are now capable of meeting the needs of fearful patients, and offer preparatory meetings. This requires the cooperation of the fearful patient to make the dentist and team aware of their fear of the dentist or dental phobia. The dentist will then discuss various topics, including the feeling of shame and more gentle methods of treatment. This helps the patient understand that they are being treated by a professional, who is aware of their fears and understands how vulnerable or helpless the patient might feel in that particular situation. The dentist is then in the position to create a comfortable and safe space for the patient, assuring them that their fear of the dentist is understood and that they are both in this psychological situation together. The patient will feel less intimidated, the feeling of shame or helplessness is eliminated, and panic will have no basis.

The patient with fear of the dentist can use hand signals during the treatment to communicate with the dental team. The dentist can then accommodate the psychological needs of the patient and give them a rest when they need it, and offer a few calming words of reassurance before continuing with the treatment. All devices and treatment methods that make the patient uneasy should be demonstrated and explained. A patient that is aware of the scenario and devices that will be used will  understand fully what they are getting into, and will be much more able to handle treatment components like injections or anaesthesia.

Calming Elements

Autogenic training, breathing exercises and techniques, muscle relaxation, relaxed breathing, listening to music during the treatment, pre and post treatment discussions, taking sedatives, full sedation – all these elements will help reduce a patient’s fear of the dentist. Finally, patients with fear of the dentist should become aware of the fact that this fear stems from within themselves. They should also be aware that technology has advanced so far, that a minor procedure does not put their physical or psychological integrity in danger.