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Dental phobia, and dental anxiety come in many forms. Anxiety may cause you to be slightly apprehensive to extremely frightened at the thought of visiting the dentist. A

Dental Phobia Marielaina Perrone DDS

Dental Phobia Can Be Overcome!

phobia, may cause a paralyzing fear that overtakes your entire body. Whichever form, dental phobia or dental anxiety, can be very difficult to overcome. Inability to have regular dental and health care can lead to health issues. Numerous studies have linked diabetes, alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and even cancer to poor oral health. It is imperative to maintain a healthy mouth to keep our bodies happy and healthy. So, the question becomes, can dental phobia be overcome?

Dental Phobia Is A Learned Fear

There has been significant research to show that dental phobia and dental anxiety are linked to life experiences. These experiences can be direct or indirect.

-Direct experiences - are the most common way for people to develop a dental phobia or dental anxiety. Many people report fearing the dentist due to a prior traumatic or painful dental experience. However, it is often the dentist themselves who induce the dental phobia. During the many studies, patients report it was not the dental procedure that ultimately causes their fear. Instead it was the dentist’s attitude towards them. Dentists who were perceived as impersonal, uncaring, or even cold were found to be the root cause of the direct experience dental phobia. An interesting note from these dental phobia studies was, that patients who experienced a painful or traumatic treatment but had a caring dentist, failed to develop a dental phobia. This leads us to believe that dental phobia is a learned trait and can be overcome.

-Indirect Experiences - These can include:

Parental/Peer Influence – Dental phobia can develop from hearing about your parents, siblings, friends, bad experiences or their negative views on going to the dentist.

Media Influence – Many movies like to poke fun at the dentist in good and bad ways. A good example is the dentist in little shop of horrors whereby dentistry is portrayed in  a sadistic way. This extreme visual can be quite unsettling, and emotional. The fear can readily be instilled, and dental phobia can develop.

Dental Phobia Diagnosis

Dental phobia can often times be very easy to diagnose. All you have to do is ask a patient and they can tell you how they feel about the dentist. It usually produces a very profound reaction if they truly have a dental phobia. The usual method for diagnosing dental phobia is the use of a scale to assess the level of dental phobia or dental anxiety. The scale consists of a series of questions and based on the answers the dentist can assess the level of your dental phobia. Common questions on the scale include:

Dental Phobia Marielaina Perrone DDS

Unlearn Your Dental Phobia!!

-While waiting in the reception area of the dental office, do you feel nervous about the visit?

-Have you had a prior dental experience that was unpleasant?

-While in the dental chair, do you feel uneasy and anxious?

-Do you feel embarrassed that the dentist will say you have the worst mouth they have ever seen?

These questions will give your dentist an assessment of what you are afraid of. Further questioning will help narrow down the fears and their triggers, enabling the dentist to work with you to help slowly overcome those fears.

Breaking The Dental Phobia Hold On You

Overcoming dental phobia can be a very difficult proposition, there is work and time involved for both you and your dentist. The first step is believing in yourself, and your dentist.The second is, feeling that it is possible, and truly wanting to try and overcome it. Dental phobia is a learned behavior and can be overcome with hard work and the desire to do so. The biggest key to overcoming dental phobia is to find the right dentist for you. One who will always keep an open line of communication, is extremely important. This will allow you to express yourself and your emotions before, during, and after treatment.

-Feeling of Control -  A sense of control is your right as a dental patient. Understanding this, is key to confidence. Knowing that you can stop treatment as often , and whenever you want can be very freeing.The most common signal is simply raising your left hand to alert the dentist and staff of your need to communicate. A system should be established allowing you to stop for any reason, whether it be because you need more anesthesia, want to rinse out, or simply need a break.You should be part of the process of developing a treatment plan as well as have the ability to fully understand the treatment being offered and why it is needed. You need to be honest with your dentist and yourself regarding how much treatment you can tolerate initially. As time moves on, you will build confidence in yourself as well as increased trust in the dentist and staff treating you. Over time, the type and length of the appointments can be increased. You will be amazed how long you will be able to sit in the chair when it is your choice!

-Feeling Embarrassed or Self Conscious - If you have been ridiculed in the past for your behavior or if you are embarrassed by your present dental condition caused by your neglect, please express yourself honestly and give your dentist a chance to understand your concerns and show you that they care. Please know, that most dentists

Dental Phobia Marielaina Perrone DDS

Free Yourself Of Your Dental Phobia

do care, and want to treat you with the respect that you deserve. These feelings do need to be addressed, and talked through, so that you can begin to leave them behind.

-Use Of Relaxation Techniques - If you feel tense in the chair, the easiest way to relax is through forms of physical relaxation. A relaxed body promotes a clear and relaxed mind. The human body cannot be physically relaxed and mentally anxious at the same time! The brain won’t process these feelings simultaneously. Physical relaxation methods are easier to accomplish at first as compared to cognitive ones, so practice forms of physical relaxation first. Light meditation methods and music work very well. Light conscious sedation, such as valium, is a great way to start.

Examples of physical relaxation are Diaphragmatic Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and various methods taught in yoga . If you induce relaxation in the presence of the stimuli that normally induces your fears (the dental environment), the fear response will be greatly diminished over multiple exposures and you will gradually desensitize yourself to these fears as you build confidence. The memories of traumatic visits will be replaced with more innocuous ones and this less threatening environment coupled with your relaxation methods will help you eliminate your dental phobia.

Repetition. The simple process of repeat appointments, will make you feel more comfortable. As you learn what to expect, and realize that you are in control of the appointment, you will be able to manage more time in the chair. Remember not to wait too long between appointments or to reschedule unless an emergency arises. Merely coming to the office and not having treatment that day is better than canceling.

-Distraction - As you get more comfortable in the dental environment, you can use distraction. The use of an ipod with your favorite music is a common technique. It is only suggested to utilize distraction techniques once you have established some trust and confidence, because your ability to communicate will be decreased, although it is easy to communicate by using your pre-established hand signals.

-Predictable Pain Control - Modern dentistry has many new techniques with regards to the administration of local anesthetics to help block pain. There are many people who have differences in their anatomy that do require more individualized techniques in order to predictably achieve proper local anesthesia. This variation must be respected and communicated to your dentist. The needle itself is generally the minor cause of discomfort, in fact, it is the pressure and volume of the fluids being injected that causes the major discomfort. Therefore, all injections should be given slowly. There are also great differences in the types of tissue in various locations, anatomically and from person to person, that must be considered when administering injections. There are even computer-controlled machines that are now available to standardize the injection process and make it more predictable than the conventional hand-held syringe.

Conclusion

Dental phobia and dental anxiety can be overcome! With proper guidance, trust, patience, dedication, and communication, dental phobia can be beaten. Do not allow your health to be held hostage by your fears. You can live a longer, happier, and healthier life, free of dental fear. Take that first step and find a dentist that understands dental fear, and make an appointment for a consult. Dental phobia and dental anxiety can be overcome!

 

Dental Anxiety – is the abnormal fear or dread of visiting the dentist for preventive care or follow up treatment and extreme anxiety over dental procedures.

Let’s face it, not many people truly look forward to going to the dentist. There are plenty who do, but most do not. We know it is good for our dental and overall health, so we go for that reason. For some, an irrational fear takes over, leaving them paralyzed with fear, and without the dental care they need to enjoy their lives fully.  According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all adults skip dental visits due to dental anxiety.

Psychology of Dental Anxiety

Many dental related fears are developed when you are young and impressionable. Sometimes the dental fear is transferred from parents to their children. When a parent is highly anxious, they oftentimes elaborate on pain, needles, drilling, and tooth removal, causing the child to believe that this will happen to them also. For some, a bad dental experience can traumatize them for the future. Feeling pain, gagging, losing control, not knowing what is going on, or having unexpected procedure you were not prepared for can be very difficult to get over. Prior to modern dentistry, dentists and their instruments were given a bad reputation in real life, movies and TV shows . The instruments and techniques used to mask discomfort were less than ideal. In modern dentistry, the dentist is more in tune to patients dental anxiety and dental fears. These dental anxieties can be overcome with a concerted effort by the patient, loved ones, and dentist.

How to Overcome Dental Anxiety

Overcoming dental anxiety can take as little as one visit, or it can take months to years. It all depends on the level of anxiety or phobia a patient might have. The following are some tips to help overcome dental anxiety:

1) Find the “right” dentist. Not all dentists have the same educational training, techniques, or patience when it comes to patients with dental anxiety. Do your research, use the Internet or ask friends and loved ones for recommendations. A good dentist is one, who is able to communicate effectively with you, and put you at ease. Most patients feel better when they know whats going on and how its going to happen. Understanding what will happen in the appointment, and having a signal to stop whenever you need to, gives back control to the patient and takes the surprise out of the situation. You and your dentist will figure out what specific things elevate your dental anxiety, and find ways to work around them. Ask your dentist their policy on emergencies after hours. Many dentists do not return calls after hours while others personally answer calls after hours and even open the office if the situation is necessary.

2) Distraction. Oftentimes, redirecting your mind can set you at ease. Meditation can be taught to you by your dentist. Music can help if the noises of dentistry affect you, bring your ipod or mp3 player with your favorite music and listen during the treatment to distract your mind and relieve your dental anxiety. A soft “squeezy ball” can help, and give that comforting feeling of squeezing someones hand.

3) Take Breaks when Needed. This goes back to communication. Take the time out during procedures to compose yourself as needed. Have a predetermined hand signal to stop the procedure as often as needed. Some patients with dental anxiety feel claustrophobic after awhile and may need to walk around a bit, catch their breath, ask a question, etc. before finishing the dental procedure.

4) Be Open and Honest. Tell your dentist what bothers you most about the dental experience, or past problems that have increased your dental anxiety. For some, the loud pitched noises may be very difficult, for others it might be the smells of the dental office, and for others it might be a past painful experience. These issues can be addressed in order to make your experience more acceptable. In dentistry today, there are many techniques to deliver a more comfortable and comforting experience.

5) Consider Medication. For some of us with more extreme dental anxiety, a mild form of sedation may be necessary to get you through. Taking a medication such as Valium prior to your appointment can help you sleep the night before, and allow for you to actually get to your appointment. Generally, such medications relax your entire body, decreasing the sweats, heart racing, and panic attacks that might otherwise disable you. This is a wonderful way to acclimate yourself to your new dentist, and the dental experience. Over time, the dosage can be reduced as you gain confidence in your dentist and your own coping abilities.  Plenty of patients, with time, can learn the proper dental anxiety techniques necessary to have dental treatment without medication.

Dental Anxiety Conclusion

Dental anxiety can be truly crippling. What we have to remember is, that if we want good health, dental treatment is necessary.  Recent studies have shown definite links between our dental health and our general health. This means it makes our dental health doubly important for us to lead healthy, happy lives. Dental anxiety CAN be overcome and defeated with a concerted effort by dentist and patient. If you are suffering from dental anxiety, take that first step, and make an appointment to meet with a dentist well versed in treating dental anxiety and dental phobia.

 

Did you know that a redheads genetic makeup may lead to a need for increased local anesthetic and have higher dental anxiety? A recent study by the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) shows that people with a specific gene tend to experience increased dental anxiety during routine dental treatment. This gene occurs more often in redheads than the general population. A second study showed that redheads need 20% more anesthesia, and it wears off faster than in blondes or dark haired people. Perhaps, the need for increased anesthesia has caused many of these redheads to fear dental treatment?

The Dental Anxiety and Dental Pain Study

The dental anxiety study included 144 people (67 with red hair and 77 with dark hair) who answered various questions about dental fears and dental anxieties. Following survey questions, blood samples were taken to test for the presence of specific gene variations. People with one specific gene, melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), were more than twice as likely to report dental fear and dental anxiety than those without the gene. 85 patients had the gene in the study and 65 of them were redheads. This same gene is also thought to be responsible for increased sensitivity to thermal pain and increased resistance to the effects of local anesthesia.

The research teams believes variations of the MC1R gene play a role. This MC1R gene produces melanin, which gives skin, hair and eyes their distinctive color.

While blond, brown and black-haired people produce melanin, those with red hair have a mutation of this receptor. It produces a different coloring called pheomelanin, which results in freckles, fairer skin and red hair. Approximately 5% of whites are believed to have these characteristics.

While the relationship between MC1R and pain sensitivity is not known completely, researchers have discovered MC1R receptors in the brain and some of them are known to influence pain sensitivity. As stated above, non redheads can also carry the gene.

Tips to Deal With Dental Anxiety and Dental Pain

-Communication. Keeping open lines of communication is always important to ensure proper numbing is being obtained to make the patient comfortable. Discussing all aspects of dental anxiety ahead of time will ensure the best possible outcomes for the patient.

-Medication. Many patients do very well taking a pre visit valium to relax themselves and remove excess dental anxiety. It will also allow the anesthesia to work more effectively during the visit because you are so relaxed.

-Distraction. Use of an ipod, to listen to music during your dental visits places your mind in a relaxed state. It helps to drown out unwanted noise.

What Does It All Mean?

Many redheads will present with increased dental anxiety as well as be more resistant to local anesthesia. So, both dentist and patient need to be aware of these situations. A dentist armed with this knowledge will approach these patients differently and ask specific questions about past anesthesia issues, as well as past dental anxiety and experiences. You do not have to have red hair to experience dental anxiety or have difficulty getting numb. There are many ways to address both problems  and overcome them with proper techniques and good communication.