People who have a fear of dentists are said to have dental phobia (a.k.a. dentophobia). Dental phobia is really an ‘umbrella’ term for a number of specific fears a person may have which are triggered by visits to the dentists, and a person could have anywhere from one to all of these individual fears:
- Fear of pain associated with treatments at the dentist
- Negative association with the smells and sounds in a dentist’s office
- Difficulty breathing or a gagging reflex when your open mouth is being worked on
- Fear of needles (trypanophobia) for numbing gums and mouth
- Fear of doctors in general (iatrophobia)
Having dental phobia is not uncommon. Some cases are more severe than others. Many people have had bad experiences with a dentist as a child but left untreated it can lead to major health problems, especially where dental care is related.
For those people that are lucky enough to have strong and healthy teeth, and who take care of their teeth and gums, going years between dental appointments is not a disaster. For those who do not care regularly for their teeth, or that have dental phobia, waiting even a year between visits can prove to be harmful where their teeth are concerned.
Where tooth enamel has worn away and cavities have set in, tooth decay can worsen with time eventually leading to the point where the tooth will need to be extracted. Those with dental phobia often will elect to have their teeth pulled rather than try to save them with fillings, root canals, crowns, or a bridge.
Consequences of letting your teeth rot can be what appear to be harsh social reactions such as avoidance, ignoring you, talking over you in conversations, etc. Your personal and intimate relationships can be jeopardised and you may notice yourself falling into depression, becoming more isolated, experiencing social anxiety, or actively withdrawing from society.
There are ways to get help for dental phobia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (talk therapy), hypnosis, and medications have all been successful in helping individuals with dentophobia to get beyond their fears. You could also listen to your favorite music with headphones to help you relax when you are at the dentist.
When talking to your dentist, let him/her know about your fear. It is possible to receive sedation during dental care visits. For people suffering from dental phobia in Hampshire, Vida Dentistry are a modern, family run practice who can prescribe a medication for you to take the night before your appointment, and something to take the day of the appointment that will help relax you and minimize your anxiety.
Although it is not mandatory, when sedation is used, it is recommended you have a friend or family member drive you home after your dental visit is over. Generally, you do not return to work that day.
Every case of dental phobia is unique and each one is handled with special care. Patients can be eased into their appointments, or they can have their processes done normally – i.e. in a day.
The important thing is that your teeth are taken care of and you are as calm and relaxed as you can be. Dental phobia doesn’t have to be something that robs you of a great smile.