Fear of the dentist is not uncommon. In fact, over 40% of Canadians admit to having a fear of the dentist that is so strong it causes them to avoid going in at all. For some, this may originate from past trauma such as a painful experience at the dentist, while other people may have had anxiety towards the dentist for their entire lives, regardless of good or bad experiences. This usually develops through vicarious learning (such as parents passing on their fears to children) or through media, such as the many horror movies that seem to centralize on one’s fear of dentists or dental trauma.
Dental fear tends to be increased in those who avoid normal checkups, since they are not experiencing “normal” appointments like teeth cleanings, and instead are waiting until they have a dental emergency that may require invasive treatments such as oral surgery. This, of course, is a much more stressful event and reinforces the person’s fear.
Although dental fear is incredibly real to those who feel it, it is very important to overcome it and visit your dentist. Avoiding the dentist can cause serious consequences for your teeth and overall health.
Consequences of Dental Phobia
People with dental phobia have a higher risk of developing gum disease, experiencing early tooth loss, and studies have shown a poor upkeep in oral health can also be related to life-threatening conditions like heart disease.
If you experience dental phobia, there are many techniques you can use to start treating it. As previously mentioned, this fear is not uncommon. That means that there are many strategies in place to help those suffering. There are specialized dental offices that use teams of psychologists and dentists to teach people how to manage their fears. Behavioral techniques can also be practiced, such as deep breathing or even cognitive restructuring or desensitization (i.e. using relaxation techniques while being shown an object that causes stress, like a syringe).
If you are in a state of dental emergency and need a quicker way to manage your fear, you may also seek out pharmacological techniques. This will include talking to your dentist and explaining your anxiety; they may then choose to have you mildly sedated (think “laughing gas”) or even completely put under. Although this technique works in the short term, it is extremely important to battle and overcome the psychological aspects of your dental phobia.
Whether your fear originated from a terrible dental experience or you have hated the idea of dentists since you were a child, you are one of many other people who suffer from the same. Seek help and work to conquer your fear – your dental and overall health depend on it.