Everyday dentists encounter patients who suffer from dental fear. But not all fear is the same. Patients who suffer from dental phobia rarely go to the dentist for years. Are you suffering from dental phobia? Find out here where the fears come from and what you can do about it with your dentist.
What is the difference between dental fear and dental phobia?
Most people feel uncomfortable when they visit the dentist’s office. You can keep an appointment with no problems. They terrify patients with dental phobia. They do everything possible to avoid a visit to the dentist.
Dental fear and phobia are quite common. Between 9 and 15% of the population is affected. They often equate fear and phobia with one another, but a phobia is a disproportionately powerful fear.
What are the consequences of fear of the dentist?
Because people with dental phobia rarely or never go to the dentist, the consequences are gum infections, pain, and broken teeth. The bacterial infection in the mouth can even impact general health because gum infections promote life-threatening diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, and diabetes.
However, health problems and rotten teeth are not the only consequences. Broken or discolored teeth also reduce the quality of life. Affected patients avoid laughing and speaking.
Most patients with dental phobia only visit the dentist in an extreme emergency. Others force themselves to visit the dentist regularly. They have strong physical symptoms of anxiety. These can range from insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, sweats to a racing heart, and high blood pressure.
Symptoms of a dental phobia
Dentist phobic often cannot overcome their fear. If treatment comes up, anxiety occurs when you call the practice. If you recognize yourself with the following symptoms, inform your dentist before treatment. It is also advisable to consult a psychologist.
Symptoms of dental phobia can include:
- Troubled sleep before the upcoming appointment
- strong nervousness in the waiting room
- physical symptoms: nausea, diarrhea, racing heart, sweating, muscle cramps
- Breakouts in the treatment room
- Difficulty breathing and retching when instruments are placed in the mouth
What are the causes of fear?
There are different causes for the development of fear. Most patients express the following reasons for their fear of dental treatment.
Many people report having uncomfortable and painful experiences at the dentist in childhood. The most common experience is pulling a (milk) tooth without or with insufficient anesthesia.
Influence from family
We can also learn the fear of dentists. It is not uncommon for parents to be afraid of the dentist and pass it on to their children. It is enough to describe the visit to the dentist negatively in advance.
The feeling of loss of control and helplessness
The oral cavity is an overly sensitive area of our body. It is part of the intimate sphere. The dentist penetrates this, even if he only carries out a harmless check. Also, you cannot see what the dentist is doing in your mouth. Instead, during the treatment, you see countless instruments close to your face and you must sit still. The unpleasant noises make the situation worse. This creates a feeling of loss of control and helplessness, which causes great fear in many people.
Also, many anxiety sufferers are simply afraid of the pain that treatment may cause. This affects older patients, as pain therapy in the past was not as sophisticated as it is today.
Patients who have avoided going to the dentist for a long time are often ashamed of the condition of their teeth. Often just opening the mouth creates a feeling of fear.
Treatment options and tips
Dental phobia is a mental illness and can be treated. If left untreated, the fear will increase as those affected only go to the dentist if they are in severe pain. In this way, they also combine dental treatment with a negative experience. Since dental phobia often makes treatment at the dentist impossible, there are diverse options today to simplify the treatment of anxious patients.
You should discuss your needs with the practitioner in advance. For example, you can agree on a sign that signals that you need a break.
Autogenic training and hypnosis
People who just feel uncomfortable visiting the dentist can calm themselves down with autogenic training. Autogenic training courses are offered in almost every city and are often paid for by health insurance companies.
Hypnosis is a measure for dental phobia patients. Unfortunately, hypnosis does not work for everyone.
Tip: Please find out from the Society for Dental Hypnosis, where you can find an expert in your area.
With general anesthesia, the patient sleeps. The patient notices nothing about dental treatment. Dentists should only use general anesthesia in an emergency. The risks of anesthesia are often significantly higher than those of treatment. That is why many dentists refuse anesthesia. They should only use it for measures that are not possible under local anesthesia.
Laughing gas is anxiolytic. When using nitrous oxide, the patient remains responsive the entire time.
There are certain drugs that can put people into a twilight sleep. They can be woken up more easily than with anesthesia and pose fewer risks.
Tip: There are herbal remedies that also calm you down and are freely available in pharmacies. These drugs are not as powerful but can reduce anxiety.
Cost of treatment options for a dental phobia
The statutory health insurance only bears the costs for the local anesthetic. You must pay for all additional measures privately. The health insurers only make an exception if there is a psychological report that confirms a dental phobia.