Visiting the dentist is something that is feared by some adults since childhood, when the appearance of old-fashioned drills and dull offices was associated with the pain of some treatments, carrying on into later life.
For some people, the problem runs deeper than a simple dislike of the clinic and can form a dental phobia, which has extremely varied causes.
This usually occurs among individuals who visit their dentist on an irregular basis, then discovering they require some adult orthodontic treatment to correct tooth movement or any other oral issue.
The scale and ballpark costs of such procedures can come as a shock to this type of patient, with many of them deciding that not knowing the extent of the treatment needed would be the preferable option.
An initial conversation with the dentist can also cause additional stress for people with a fear of diagnosis, as they often know they need to return to the dentist eventually, but do not want to hear what the professional has to say.
In addition, this problem – which is extremely common – means finding out what or how much needs to be done and not being able to cope with the news. It usually affects those who have not visited the dentist for a long time and therefore require a lot of treatment.
Patients are often surprised by the fact they do not need any procedures, while they could come across a lot of posts on discussion boards where people were pleasantly surprised at how little treatment they required, even after a very long absence.
While it used to be common for individuals to need a filling every time they went to the dentist, the introduction of items including fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water supplies have resulted in a decrease in tooth decay in the general population.
Individuals who suffer with a dental phobia tend to assume the worst is going to happen, which is simply not the case.
Unfortunately, the people who suffer from this issue tend to think the better option is to not go forward with the treatment because their fear of returning to the dentist has become so great. The stress of the situation typically encourages individuals to develop a phobia about visiting the dentist again.
Due to their insight into what the next diagnoses could be, patients often find themselves too terrified to seek any further information.
Another factor contributing to this issue is that, by refusing to visit the clinic, individuals are excluding themselves from receiving any further facts about the type of treatment they need. Because dentists work with certain words on a daily basis, they do not realise how phrases like “orthodontic work” or the use of high-tech brand names can be confusing for members of the public.
This can result in the situation worsening for already-worried members of the public, as they resort to the internet to find out more information. Although the web is a valuable resource, it should not be a substitute for face-to-face consultations with the dentist and can, potentially, make matters much worse.
As with any phobia, the symptoms of this problem are varied – affecting each patient in extremely different ways. In some instances, people can become ill with fear and experience nausea, diarrhoea and sweating even before making an appointment.
Worries about the diagnosis of a dental problem are also enhanced by concern regarding other issues surrounding the treatment. Running orthodontic work through a search engine suggests it is a lengthy treatment – which of course is not always the case.
However, the main factor to consider with a phobia is that patients will only ever focus on the worst case scenario and only envisage themselves spending years of their adult life wearing uncomfortable and unsightly braces.
This idea can also be applied to the price of dental treatment, as the more patients worry about what my be wrong with their teeth, the more they consider how much it may cost to resolve them. The more individuals read about orthodontic work, the more they fear the future dental bill could run into thousands of pounds.
In some cases, it is quite clear that the initial consultation with the dentist has left a person with too many unanswered questions could result in a phobia. While the professional often mentions orthodontic work and then continues with their daily duties, a worried individual could then find it hard to consider anything else.
While it is not always the easiest option for a dentist to get to know and understand every single patient in a busy practice, most professionals will have a strategy for helping to manage patient expectations for ensuring they feel comfortable with any further treatment.
For patients suffering from this type of problem, it may be better to spend a full consultation session with their dentist to discuss X-rays, treatments, costs and work that may possibly need carrying out in the future.
By knowing what to expect well in advance, patients can then accurately research procedures and prepare questions to allow the course of action be prepared in a way that suits them.