It is always said that a beautiful smile is the key to unlocking golden opportunities. A sparkling smile can do wonders for your life, a soulful smile eventually emits rays of happiness and keeps the positivity within you. Well, it is not something new how important it is to maintain your oral hygiene in order to maintain that beautiful smile. Not just that visiting a dentist twice a year is an essential thing to do, for maintaining that picture-perfect smile.
Though visiting a dentist might not be a major issue for many people out there, it still can be an issue for many people. Well, the fear of visiting a dentist is known as “Dentophobia”, and along with this anxiety too can pounce upon your mind to create a major fear at the back of your mind.
Dentophobia develops due to the fear, anxiety, or stress that is associated with dental settings. If this fear gets larger in your mind, you would be scared to visit the dentist and this will lead to delaying the treatments or you might end up avoiding the major dental treatment too. The fear of needles, drills, or the dental setting in general, can trigger dental anxiety in any person. Not just that there are several mental conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any previous history of injury that can lead to an increase in the risks of anxiety disorders.
Though this phobia and anxiety can cause serious problems for you, hence to overcome this fear exposure therapy, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques might help you in overcoming the fears and disorders. A person’s dental anxiety can massively affect their self-esteem which can have a detrimental effect on their health too.
Symptoms related to Dental Anxiety:
Dental phobia easily triggersphysical, emotional, cognitive, and, behavioral responses in anxious patients. If this fear and phobia go unchecked, the patient might use any excuse to skip a dental appointment, promising themselves they will reschedule. If any patient comes up with any kind of dental treatment whether it might be simple or complex patients with dentophobia will find dental cleaning as a matter of concern too.
Some of the common symptoms of dental anxiety include:
- Racing heartbeat (tachycardia) or palpitations
- Low blood pressure and possible -fainting (syncope)
- Increased blood pressure
- Decayed Teeth
- An upset stomach
- Visible distress, crying, or signs of panic
- Using humor or aggression to mask anxiety
Who Can Be Affected By Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety can occur in anyone irrespective of age category. This is a serious mental condition and peoplewho do not experience dental fear or phobia often cannot understand the stress this brings to the sufferers in those who suffer from it.
Children who have had bad dental experiences in the past in most cases can overcome their fear if the situation is managed well and they are well cared for and supported during further dental visits. Adults who are anxious about dental care tend to remain anxious throughout life.
The effect of dental anxiety or phobia on your oral health:
If you avoid the dentist this can result in dental disease to result into getting worse, and this results in a greater need for more complex treatment. This dental phobia creates a havoc situation in the mind, this is known as the ‘vicious cycle of dental anxiety. A regular dental check-up cleans and X-rays of the teeth can prevent dental disease and this helps the dentist to find any problems at the earlier stage so that simpler and less invasive treatments are needed. During regular check-ups, dentists also check for signs of oral cancer, which is an important thing for those who smoke or regularly drink alcohol.
Most dental diseases are lifestyle-related and they are preventable too. Thus by avoiding going to the dentist, not only are you more likely to need more complex treatments, but you are also missing out on learning how to better care for your oral health. The everyday factors that lead to dental diseases are very similar to those that lead to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Hence taking care of oral health and general brushing and flossing are very important to do.
The other phobias that are connected to Dental Anxiety:
Other phobias linked to dentophobia include:
- Algophobia, a fear of pain.
- Emetophobia, a fear of vomiting.
- Haphephobia, a fear of being touched.
- Iatrophobia, a fear of doctors.
- Trypanophobia, a fear of needles.
What triggers Dental Phobia?
Dentophobia gets triggered due to:
- Being inside a dental office.
- Hearing or seeing dental instruments.
- Lying in a dentist’s chair.
- Seeing a dentist or dental hygienist.
- Thinking about a dental visit.
What is the diagnosis of Dentophobia?
Dentophobia is a specific phobic disorder your healthcare provider may diagnose dentophobia if you experience intense anxiety or fear when thinking about or visiting the dentist. Your dentist or healthcare provider may suggest that you see a mental health professional like a psychologist. This healthcare provider can formally evaluate your symptoms, including how the phobia impacts your daily life.
You may have this specific phobic disorder if your fear of dentists:
- Occurs when you think about visiting or going to visit the dentist.
- Prevents you from seeing a dentist, even when you’re in pain or need urgent treatment.
- Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger.
- Lasts at least six months.
How does dentophobia affect well-being?
Fear of dentists also has a negative effect on your general well-being. People whose oral health has been impacted by dentophobia may become embarrassed about their teeth and they tend to avoid seeing friends or family. Dentophobia can also have a detrimental effect on their performance at work or school. Because of these factors, dentophobia can spur Aggression, Sleep disorders, Low self-esteem, and self-confidence.
What are dentophobia treatments?
The fear of dentists leads to dentophobia, and to overcome this fear exposure therapy is one of the main treatments that help in overcoming the fear. During exposure therapy, a mental health professional exposes you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. This exposure happens in a controlled setting where you can work through your responses.
During exposure therapy, you:
- Learn breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to use before and during exposure.
- View images or videos of people visiting the dentist.
- Gradually progress to visiting a dentist’s office without getting treatment.
- Have a cleaning or checkup with the hygienist or dentist.
Managing Dental Anxiety and Phobia:
There are several ways by which you can manage dental anxiety or phobia. It is an essential thing to let your dentist know whether you experience any kind of dental anxiety. Below enumerated are some of the techniques, by doing that help you in overcoming dental anxiety. Some psychological coping techniques include:
- deep breathing
- distraction (such as listening to music or the use of devices)
- guided imagery
- progressive muscle relaxation
- agreeing with your dentist on a signal to stop during the treatment for a break (such as raising your left pointer finger or hand)
- Use a weighted blanket
Referral to a psychologist in this matter can be a helpful thing too. Some short, targeted therapies that include cognitive behavioral therapy can be successful.
Difference between dentophobia and severe fear of dental treatments:
Dentophobia is an extreme fear that is out of proportion to the situation. People who suffer from dentophobia avoid seeing the dentist even when they suffer from pain. This condition is so severe that it can lead to very poor dental health. These problems may affect a person’s relationships or job prospects, too.
Well, severe fear of dental treatment involves feelings of distress, but these feelings aren’t as extreme as dentophobia. People with dental anxiety worry a lot about pain or stress at the dentist, but will likely still see their dentist for treatment, unlike those with dentophobia.
What does a person with dentophobia fear?
Someone with dentophobia may be afraid of:
- Anesthetic: People who usually aren’t fearful of getting an anesthetic (numbing drug), but instead, fear the anesthetic not working. Some people fear the side effects of the anesthetic, such as temporary numbness of their lips.
- Blood: Some people have a fear of blood (hemophobia). They may feel afraid or panicky about the possibility or actual presence of even minor bleeding that can happen during a dental procedure.
- Choking: People may fear to gag or choking when the dentist numbs their mouth. They may fear not being able to breathe or swallow.
- The dentist: People may associate negative feelings with their dentist. These feelings may be worse if they’ve had a bad experience with a dentist in the past.
- Feeling pain: Dental procedures fairly often involve a small amount of pain. And sometimes, the procedure or recovery does hurt. People who’re highly sensitive to pain may be more fearful of feeling discomfort during their dental treatment or as a result of it.
- Needles: People afraid of needles may fear the injections dentists use during dental procedures.
- Noise: Someone may fear the noise made by drills and dental instruments used by the dentist or dental hygienist.
- Smells: People may become anxious due to how the dentist’s office smells or the specific aromas that arise during dental treatment.
HOW TO EASE DENTAL ANXIETY IN 3 STEPS:
- TALKING TO YOUR DENTIST:
If you are suffering from dentophobia, or dental anxiety it would be a better option to talk to your dentist so that they would help you to overcome the fear and anxiety. Anyone who suffers from dental anxiety will attest that opening up about your feelings is very therapeutic and can put the mind and heart at ease. When you call for a dental appointment, you should be upfront about your hesitation and concerns that you should tell your dentist.
Consider these opportunities for sharing your concerns with your dental practice:
- When you make a dental appointment, speaking with the receptionist about your nervousness helps in overcoming the fear. The fact is the more your dentist knows about you, the more they can put your mind at ease during the treatment.
- When you arrive, don’t be afraid to share your anxiety with the dental staff, hygienist, or dentist. This includes sharing past dental experiences that caused you distress.
- Agree on a signal you can use if you feel overwhelmed at any time during your treatment; a raised hand, a thumbs up, etc.
- If at any time you have pain, whether you receive local anesthesia or are under conscious sedation, let your dentist know.
2. DISTRACTING YOURSELF:
There are several ways to distract yourself during your dental visit that shouldn’t hinder your treatment quality.
- Keep something in your hands, such as a fidget spinner or a stress ball, to squeeze helps in distracting your mind.
- Wear headphones or earbuds. Listening to your favorite music or an audiobook can be a welcome distraction from the sounds of instruments.
- If available, take advantage of a TV or video setup. Some dental offices have local channels to choose from, but you can also take a tablet or other mobile device to set up in your line of sight.
- Visualizing a pleasant place. Thinking about a setting that puts you at ease can bring great peace and comfort.
3. USE COPING MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES:
The journey to relaxation starts with peace in your mind. Here are a few coping strategies you can do silently, from the waiting room to the dental chair:
- Controlled breathing: Take slow, measured breaths this helps in keeping your mind in control. For example, inhale slowly with a slow count of 4 and then exhale for the same length of time. This breathing exercise can be repeated any time during your visit when you are waiting for dental treatment to begin after you receive an injection/anesthesia, or while x-rays are being processed.
- Body scan: Focus attention on relaxing your muscles, beginning with your forehead, then moving down to cheeks, neck, arms, etc., all the way to your toes.
Dental phobia and anxiety are serious mental conditions, but there are several ways as mentioned in the article by doing them you can overcome from the fear and can go through a hassle free check-up and treatments.