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Fear of Needles

When it comes to seeking medical treatment, Britons are notorious for their reluctance to ask for help – and queries about their health are no exception. While many simply do not like admitting they are unwell, others develop anxiety and are afraid of visiting hospitals or other clinics.

This is usually the case for buildings such as hospitals, but a high number of individuals are also afraid of their dentist and will put off booking a check-up in a bid to avoid attending on a regular basis.

While this may seem like the best option at the time, it is widely known that people who fail to maintain their oral health will experience a wide range of issues with their teeth and gums – resulting in the need for potentially costly procedures and sometimes extraction.

Although the causes of a dental phobia can be many and varied, the symptoms are usually very similar, with many individuals displaying certain types of behavioural problems that could see their anxiety worsen over the years.

What is a fear of needles?

A needle phobia is something that can affect individuals in a number of aspects of their life and is not restricted to the dental practice. In some cases, the situation can become so extreme that sufferers avoid vaccination injections that could result in the development of other health issues.

Furthermore, patients living with this ailment could find they are unable to undergo even the simplest of procedures including a scale and polish or cosmetic treatments that will result in a lighter and brighter smile.

Practitioners dealing with patients and their phobias often experience difficulty managing their schedule and giving other people the level of care they deserve due to lengthy periods spent with certain individuals.

People who are living with a phobia often struggle to see the dentist’s point of view and fail to appreciate how hard it is to treat them within a normal practice environment. The more the fear impacts on their behaviour and willingness to seek assistance, the harder it becomes for the professional to provide the right standard of care.

For this reason, a fear of needles is now recognised as a very “real” condition that both patients and professionals should attempt to tackle together. The level of anxiety differs from person to person, with many actually afraid of the implements altogether and not just in the medical sense.

Between one and three per cent of the UK population suffers from this condition, with some avoiding injections at all costs – even in life-threatening situations.

With an increasing number of needles being used for blood tests and the administration of drugs in modern medicine, needlephobia is becoming an important issue for doctors, nurses and patients.

As the extent of the condition becomes increasingly understood, there are many more solutions and products emerging that can help individuals to cope with the problem including microscission techniques that allow vaccinations to be administered without the use of the implements.

Innovative products offer patients an alternative to the traditional anaesthetic techniques that administer the substance smoothly, painlessly and with less force than is expected with conventional methods.

What are the symptoms?

Any individual who suffers from a phobia will understand how complex the personal reactions that occur can be, tending to vary distinctly from individual to individual. While some sufferers could be helped by a pain-free needle, others may still be worried by the sight of the implement.

For this reason, patients are advised to work with their dentist to understand their own symptoms so they can be addressed on a personal level.

In the majority of cases, the main experiences among those living with a phobia are anxiety at the thought of injections and the avoidance of receiving them. Others include dry mouth, palpitations, trembling, feeling dizzy and fainting.

Is there a solution?

The simplest way to manage a fear of needles is by working with a dentist to understand why it has developed and increase their confidence in the expertise of the practitioner – which can assist individuals in relaxing.

Children are usually affected by this issue more than adults, so explaining the technical aspects in these instances may not help too much. For this reason, many dentists introduce coping strategies and distraction techniques – such as keeping a youngster’s favourite toy nearby – to calm any unwanted nerves.

For some patients, however, the fear of the sharp equipment is not related to the pain it will cause, but the whole experience surrounding the injection. Counselling and hypnosis are also alternatives that could be more helpful, although a full consultation with a dental professional should be carried out initially.

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