What is dental phobia?

Dental phobia is defined as a ‘fear of the dentist’ and affects a great many people. People who are apprehensive about visiting the dentist will put up with pain and discomfort rather than seeking treatment for it.

However, failure to look after your teeth or have regular check ups can mean long term problems, e.g. gum disease or abscesses. The sad fact is that these and many other dental problems are preventable if you have a twice yearly check up.

There are a variety of reasons why people avoid the dentist and these include:

  • Embarrassment about the condition of your teeth
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of needles or other instruments
  • Dislike the sounds, sights and smells
  • Fear of the dentist (feel that he/she is unsympathetic)
  • Costs of treatment
  • Fear of anaesthetic not working (local anaesthetic)
  • Choking, gagging or unable to breathe
  • Fear of being given bad or unnecessary treatment

A fear of the dentist can start in childhood: if you had a bad experience or felt that the dentist was less than sympathetic then this will set up a pattern of behaviour into adulthood.

What happens is that people will develop a problem with their teeth but rather than having it looked at early on will leave it until it becomes serious and requires emergency treatment. This can end up costing you more in terms of time and money! This is why it’s so important that you have your teeth checked regularly in order to deal with any problems before they reach that stage.

What help is there?

If you do suffer from dental phobia then rest assured that there is help out there. Dentists do recognise that many patients are anxious about dental treatment and will aim to put you at your ease. They will listens to your concerns with a sympathetic manner and discuss ways of easing your fears with you.

If your dentist appears cold, uncaring or unsympathetic then go elsewhere.

Dental treatment is a lot less painful than in the past and care is taken to ensure that it is as painless as possible. Advances in technology mean that new forms of treatment and anaesthetics ensure that treatment is quicker and more efficient than ever.

If you do have worries about treatment then there are steps you can take to help deal with these. A good dentist will work with you to alleviate these fears so please be open and frank with him/her.

Your dentist has a duty of care to you and this should include a thorough explanation of any procedure, and in Plain English. Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. If there is something you don’t understand then ask again until you do.

If you are embarrassed about the state of your teeth then don’t be: dentists have seen teeth in all manner of conditions and many that are worse than yours. The main thing is that you have decided to do something about it.

If you find it hard to relax then there are ways of dealing with this. Hypnotherapy, relaxing music, goggles that enable you to watch a DVD and scented candles are just a few of the many relaxation methods. Another option is sedation which is very effective for anxious patients.

If you are worried about painful injections then there is a ‘syringe free’ version called ‘The Wand’. This is a computerised system with a pen-like hand piece which administers the anaesthetic. It is administered in small doses and is a lot more comfortable than the traditional needle.

Further information on dental phobia can be found on dentalphobia.co.uk and the cosmetic dentistry guide to dental fear.

Common Dental Problems Guide Index:

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