Fear of dentists is: odontophobia or dentophobia, a phobia about dentistry or dentists.
It is projected that as many as 75% of US adults suffer some degree of dental fear, from mild to severe. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of U.S. grownups are considered to experience some form of dental phobia that they avoid dental care at all costs. Many people will only seek dental care in case of a dental emergency, and even then it has to be very painful before they visit a dentist. More women report to have a phobia for dentistry than men, but it is because men don’t like to tell people about their fears.
How can you overcome your fear for dentists and dentistry? There are several things you could consider.
· Dental Fear Clinics
There are actually dental fear clinics at the University of Washington and the Göteborg University in Sweden, where they use psychologists and dentists to teach scared people how to reduce their fear for dental treatment. The objective of these clinics is to supply individuals with the skills necessary to manage their fear with the minimum of anxiety. These clinics however are rare.
· Behavioral techniques
Behavioral strategies can be used by dentists by reassuring the patient constantly and soothingly. It could include praising the patient if a procedure has gone well. Keep reaffirming the patient that the next step would be equally unthreatening. The dentist can also describe in easy to understand language what the following procedure is going to be. Say it is going to tingle a bit, or that a slight vibration will be felt or that the machine will make a peculiar sound.
More focused behavioral treatments can include teaching individuals some relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing as well as deliberate thought based techniques, such as thinking of a favorite place or an imaginary place. One can also use a systematic desensitization technique, where the patient is gradually encouraged to overcome their fear for dentistry. This is a method used in psychology to overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. Many New York dentists help their patients overcome their fear this way.
Certain aspects of the physical environment also play an important role in overcoming dental fear. Get rid of the smells traditionally associated with dentistry for example, or the dental team wearing non-clinical clothes, or playing music in the background.
· Pharmacological techniques
If your patient continues to feel anxious, you could resort to pharmacological techniques which may include mild sedation to general anesthesia. Another commonly known anxiety reducing medication is the use of nitrous oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas.”
Dentists could also prescribe an oral sedative. These sedatives may help people feel calmer and sometimes drowsy during dental treatment, however the patients are still conscious and able to communicate with the dental staff.
· Self-help and peer support
One could take a friend to your dentist appointment and rely on the friend to keep you calm, although recent research has concentrated on the role of online communities in helping people to confront their anxiety or phobia and successfully receive dental care. The findings propose that certain individuals do appear to gain from their involvement in dental anxiety online support group.