While the majority of people dislike visiting the dentist to a certain extent, for some, the problems can run much deeper and form a phobia. In these cases, individuals may stop at nothing to avoid sitting in that dreaded chair.
Although the causes of a dental phobia are likely to be many and varied, it is important for all patients to do their best to tackle this issue in a bid to maintain their oral health well into adulthood.
In many instances, the main challenge for those professionals attempting to diagnose this problem is when a member of the public cannot successfully articulate where their fear comes from – making it much more difficult to understand.
This could be the case when the anxiety is based around a long and distant childhood memory, something that may not be instantly retrievable when asked during a therapy session.
Interestingly, a patient does not necessarily need to be conscious of the memory for it to influence their behaviour and feelings as an adult and this could often make it much harder to resolve.
Furthermore, phobias can actually become more powerful when they are tough to understand, as it can encourage people to ignore it and visit their dentist on fewer occasions – leaving their teeth and gums at risk.
When asking individuals what it is they hate about the dentist, most will answer “everything”, as the sights, smells and sounds of the practice send a shiver down their spine and can prove to be powerful environment triggers.
According to previous research carried out by the British Dental Association, a fear of the dentist affects around one in four people, but this figure is likely to be much higher in reality as many individuals refuse to admit they are afraid.
Instead, this type of person blames their inability to attend an appointment on another factor – such as cost or time.
Often, members of the public suffering from this type of anxiety have not paid their dentist a visit for so long they do not realise how much technology and the appearance of the clinic has changed over time.
Modern practices now offer many more ways to help individuals control and monitor their anxiety – as well as managing their phobia – while also receiving training themselves on how best to help those suffering from this problem.
The fear of visiting a dentist has now been broken down into three classifications, which aims to help both professionals and their patients understand what is driving the worry and how deep-seated it actually is.
For example, a person may label their condition a phobia on their own – such as those who claim to have a height or spider phobia, but it has never been diagnosed – but could really be talking about a simple fear of the unknown.
Alternatively, members of the public could be living with a dental fear, where they know they have anxiety about the dentist and have a clear, rational reason about not wanting to return – something that may have developed due to an unpleasant past experience.
For some people, however, the feeling of dread is more severe and is likely to cause the individual far more distress than the aforementioned issues.
Dentists recommend the first step in resolving this problem is understanding and classifying their feels, as it will help them get a good start in attempting to face up to it.
Patients looking to resolve their dental phobia should be looking to attend a full consultation with their dentist to identify their primary symptoms – such as anxiety, stress and fear – while spending time with the professional to understand what triggers them.
These catalysts can often be identified as a number of different things which can usually combine to create the dental experience. For example, sounds such as a dental drill.
Patients could try to remember that a drill inside the mouth will sound a lot louder and scarier than it actually is, while many people are surprised by how much quieter the equipment is when they return to the dental surgery.
Similarly, modern practices are far more customer-friendly in terms of smells and appearance than traditional clinics because wider acknowledgement has been given to dental phobia in recent years and more action is taken to ensure individuals are comfortable.
In addition, sound smell and sight can be important triggers for those who are fearful of visiting the dentist and are usually identified during the consultation stage of treatment. For example, people suffering from this problem are likely to become even more stressed when they feel their specialist is not approaching the situation with care.
Those people who feel able to talk to their dentist about their issues may find they relax significantly, so this is something that could be tried when discussing particular procedures before they are carried out.
In the majority of cases, the secret to managing a dental fear of phobia is as simple as finding a practitioner who makes them feel at ease. Luckily, this is something that happens in the majority of clinics in modern times, as more training is given to prevent this issue.
Furthermore, a thorough consultation where the symptoms and triggers are discussed is often the best possible thing for anxiety sufferers, as it means they are able to begin on a path of recovery as soon as possible.