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Dental phobia

Meaning, symptoms, causes and treatment of dentophobia

I guess you have heard of people suffering from arachnophobia or elevator phobia. There are many types of these intense and irrational fears, one of them is dentophobia.

If you want to know more about dental phobia, from our article you can find out:

What is dental phobia?

It is not an exaggeration to say that most people are reluctant when it comes to visiting a dentist. Fear from a dental visit is particularly true in the case of children. However, many adults are anxious or even horrified when entering the dentist’s as well. The fear or anxiety caused by a dental visit or intervention is known as “dental phobia” or “dentophobia” by medical terminology, depending on the level of distress.

Dentophobia or just anxiety?

Fear from a dental visit does not necessarily mean that the patient is suffering from dental phobia. Whether or not we are dealing with a phobia may depend on several factors. For example, many people only feel stressed about a dental visit if an actual intervention is about to take place because it often involves a certain level of pain. Others, however, might be terrified by the thought of a routine treatment itself. For patients who feel great distress even during routine treatment we can use the term “dental phobia”.
Children of course are generally afraid when going to the dentist’s, especially when it is their first visit and they are not sure what to expect. A certain number of children may actually have dental phobia, but unless their anxiety results in serious symptoms, they do not necessarily have phobic anxiety.

Symptoms and consequences

Fear from a dental visit or intervention might result in several symptoms. For example, patients might start sweating or shaking in the waiting room, or even feel sick or nauseous. Whether it is dental phobia we are dealing with depends on how serious these symptoms are. While sweating can be caused by anxiety, nausea indicates that the level of distress is much more serious. In extremes cases patients might even experience panic attacks, though this happens fairly rarely.
Dentophobia is regarded as a common problem in medical science. Still, it can have more severe consequences in the long term. People suffering from dental phobia tend to visit the dentist only when their condition has already worsened. As a result they are more likely to have gum diseases or dental plaque. They may even have to deal with heart problems after a certain period of time.
As dental treatment can be very costly, we must also consider the financial side of the problem. If patients wait for too long, they may need further treatments or interventions. For example both  Root canal treatment and installing a dental crown entail high costs. So the economic consequences might help patients to overcome their distress and ask for medical care.

Possible causes of dental phobia

As every phobia, dentophobia is also an instinctive, unexplained, irrational fear. However, a lot of research underlines that the reasons can be categorized into two groups: ‘internal’ and ‘external’ reasons.
An ‘external reason’ could be an explainable trauma in the past, especially in childhood, or when a friend of us told a scary story.
‘Internal reasons’ are the patient’s genetic characteristics features and his/her cognitive skills. There could be also hereditary factors of dentophobia although the patient’s introvert character, intelligence and awareness can play an important role in its occurrence.

Other reasons

The possible inconvenience and pain of a dental visit or intervention are often the main cause for someone to develop dental fear or phobia. There are, however, other potential factors as well. Many patients tend to feel ashamed or embarrassed during treatment because the dentist is examining their oral cavity which is, after all an intimate part of the human body. This embarrassment can become even more serious when the patient has damaged or discoloured teeth or bad breath as a result of the condition of their teeth. Some patients might feel distressed by the doctor’s presence itself: the dentist is only inches away from their face during treatment which can make them really nervous.
Beside the pain and the shame patients may have to face during dental treatment, a negative experience, or certain psychic problems like feeling of helplessness can also lead to dentophobia.

Besides dentophobia, there are diseases such as fear of injury or injection. The medical acts and its certain moments fill these patients with dread.

What is the treatment for dental phobia?

Fortunately, the difficulties caused by dentophobia can be tackled in several ways. First, it is important that the patient finds a reliable dentist to whom they can turn to without hesitation; someone who is able to establish an appropriate doctor-patient relationship. Qualified dentists may also apply special methods to ensure a calm environment; such methods include different relaxation techniques that help patients overcome their fears. Clinics may even employ psychologists who assist the dentist’s work to deal with psychic problems. In case the dentist finds medication necessary, patients suffering from dental phobia can be prescribed anesthetics, painkillers or mild sedatives.

In case the dental phobia persists, dental treatments can be carried out under general anesthesia. In this case, the patient does not feel any discomfort or pain during the operation or treatment, and does not hear anything. The inner tension disappears, just a good sleep remains as a memory of the dental treatment.

Finally, here is good advice: the dog’s bite with its fur! It is recommended to visit your dentist regularly in order to detect any alterations on time. By regular visits, you can avoid serious problems and their painful treatments. And of course, the biggest relief for a person suffering from dentophobia is when his dentist says there is nothing to do with his teeth.

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