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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!

 

Let’s face it, going to the dentist is usually not a the top of most people’s fun list. Going to the dentist does not have to be an unpleasant experience that we dread. WhateverDentist Marielaina Perrone DDS the reason, many Americans skip visits to the dentist. In the United States alone, approximately 65 % of us go to the dentist, but in some states, that number is much lower, even below 52% percent in Mississippi.

Missing out on dental care can lead to real health issues including oral cancer, heart disease, and even alzheimer’s disease. If dental issues are caught early on they can be treated quite easily and at a reduced cost. Once the issues progress, not only does the level of treatment increase but so does the cost.

Why Do We Avoid The Dentist?

1. Dental Phobia – A large segment of the population has an unhealthy fear of the dentist. This can be due to previous bad experiences or a learned trait from their parents. Luckily, dental phobia can be overcome with good communication between patient and dentist. Choosing the right dentist goes a long way to creating a positive dental experience.

2. Cost – Money is always a factor in consumer choices and that includes our health needs. We all make choices every day based on cost. The reality is that visiting the dentist twice a year and finding dental issues early on are far less expensive than waiting until there is a problem developing. For example, in the early stages of tooth decay it can be easily fixed with dental bonding and be done in less than an hour. If left untreated it can enter the nerve of the tooth thus causing the need for root canal therapy and possibly a crown to save the tooth. The difference in cost could be as much as 10-12x the cost of the dental bonding. Also maintaining good oral hygiene at home can go along way to saving you money and discomfort over time.

 

Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDS3. Time – We all have a lot going on in our lives between work and family commitments. Finding the time to take care of our bodies should be a top priority but sometimes it is not. This is where making going to the dentist a routine from an early age comes into play. Dental health is vital to living a long happy and healthy life.

4. Fear of Being Reprimanded – No one likes getting yelled at but many have faced a hygienist or dentist who has lectured them on doing a better job with at home oral hygiene. Again it comes down to choice of dentist and staff. You need to choose a dentist who is open to communication and finding better ways that work for you to maintain your hygiene.

5. Ignorance – Many people have grown up to believe certain myths or wives tales. A good example is that if my gums bleed just a little when I brush that is normal. Bleeding gums are never normal from routine brushing. This is a sign of the development of periodontal disease. The earliest phase, gingivitis, can be reversed but once it advances to periodontitis it can be maintained but not reversed. Ignorance or lack of education is not an excuse to take care of your teeth and gums.

Conclusion

Going to the dentist is as important as seeing your physician. Studies have shown our oral health and our general health are linked. To stay healthy we need to maintain our oral health. That includes regular visits to the dentist for regular dental examinations and professional cleanings. Developing a routine is essential to staying in good health. A routine will make it even easier to keep healthy over the course of your lifetime.

Dental Anxiety - 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 enjoy 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 50% of 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 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.