Have you ever had a past negative dental experience that has been haunting you your entire life? Does the sound and smell in a dental clinic make your blood chill? Do you feel helpless and embarrassed while lying down in the dental chair?
If you have extreme dental phobia, you should know that you are not alone.
Dental anxiety has a massive impact on Brits and according to a survey by dentallaw.co.uk can stem from general anxiety, previous negative experiences, potential treatments costs, fear of pain and more. Other dental phobia statistics show that 58% of the UK population experience fear of dentists. Still, this is not a purely English dentist phobia, but a worldwide one. Eventually, it results in severe deterioration of oral health like gum disease, cavities and inevitably tooth and bone loss.
Phobia vs. Fear
According to Psychology Today, fear is a healthy response that our body has to protect us from real-life physical or emotional threats. This vital response has developed in the early times of the human revolution as a much needed immediate reaction to life-or-death situations. This is what patients often perceive as fear – like fear of the dentist.
Nowadays, most social situations don’t pose such dire consequences that prehistoric men used to face, still, we develop an extreme fight-or-flight response to specific settings or objects.
Phobias beget a similar reaction, but there is a significant difference.
With phobias, the feeling of fear does not correspond to the supposed imminent danger. What does that mean? If we feel frightened by small insects or dentists that we have never met (who are usually friendly and professional) our concerns can be deemed as irrational.
This is where fear turns into a phobia.
Fear vs. Anxiety
Similar to the distinction between fear and phobia, it also boils down to genuine and operational versus exaggerated and dysfunctional. Fear is a natural response to a particular and real hazard, meanwhile, anxiety is an extreme fear that may be triggered by a stimulant that is exaggerated and abstract. Furthermore, anxiety may last for a long time after the cause (if any at all) has been dealt with.
It makes sense to associate fear with anxiety and phobias as a phobia may cause fear and anxiety.
What are the most common causes of extreme dental fear?
- Fear of dental sedation
- Fear of embarrassment and lack of personal space
- Fear of a painful experience
Phobia of dentists can be triggered after multiple occasions. Those could be prior traumatic experiences (early childhood incident), adopting the anxiety from affected friends or family, personal conditions such as neuroticism, insufficient awareness, exposure to bizarre dental-related images on social media among many more.
Being scared of dentists can also be induced by sensory stimuli such as looking at syringes and drills, crippling sounds of drilling, the very specific smell at the dental office of eugenol and cut dentine.
Fear of dental sedation
The fear of dentists that do sedation can occur for various reasons. In reality, few people have an allergic reaction to anesthesia. However, it still can cause distress in many anxious patients who are placed under anesthesia, especially if they have never been under one.
Being numb, completely stripped of the ability to move or talk to the dentist is another thought that causes a tremendous amount of stress. For others, the dental phobia definition is a patient waking up before the end of the procedure, and experiencing pain is blood-chilling.
Another challenging task is to distinguish the myth from the fact. Given that we live in the age of technology, we constantly come across different information over the internet – social media, blogs, news etc. We need to be extremely critical in our thinking when dealing with different chunks of information. They may not be correct at all times – this information is often acquired through a friend of a friend and has more to do with rumour than facts.
If you undergo treatment at a dentist with anesthesia, it is possible not to feel the comforting numbness of the local anesthetic that reassures you of a pain-free procedure. The good news that most patients do not take into account is that the dentist can easily ‘top up’ the sedative until there is no pain during the treatment. Our considerate dentists at Dentaprime UK will always check with you whether you feel any pain and help you get over the fear of dental needles.
Fear of embarrassment and lack of personal space
Often, dental phobia in children grows into the fear of dentists as adults. This leads to deteriorated oral health and causes patients to be too self-conscious to visit a dentist.
Imagine if you are a working professional who is a dental phobic and has been struggling to find a suitable dentist for treatment in the UK. You’d be surprised to know that 31% of the people would find themself in such an awkward situation.
Eventually, you’d need to pay significantly more for the dental work due to the accumulation of the treatments needed. Also, embarrassment builds up because of the unsightly oral status. What’s worse, you may end up having another reason not to visit the dentist. Fear that due to the degraded state of your oral health, the dentist would judge you and be rude, as 18% of dental phobia survey respondents confirm.
Dental care neglect can lead to tooth decay, which in turn leads to cavities, bacteria accumulation, abscess and worst-case scenario tooth loss. The longer the wait, the worse the problem will become.
Fear of dentists has different ways of manifesting, one of which is particularly nasty – chronic nausea, induced by the sole thought of imagining your decayed teeth. This in turn only worsens the attitude towards the scary dentists. Combined with embarrassment it makes it highly unlikely for anxious patients to make an appointment regardless of whether it’s a dentist with sedation.
Fear of a painful experience
It’s a natural self-preservation response to prefer not to experience any pain. Yet, for nervous dental patients and patients with dentophobia, the sole thought of visiting the dentist triggers pain phobia and makes it worse than the pain itself.
If you have had rotten teeth and have been scared to visit the dentist for many years, chances are that one element of your extreme dental phobia stems from an early childhood experience. Back in the days when NHS dentists did not use a general anaesthetic that much, even simple procedures such as fillings resulted in a painful experience. That led to being terrified of the dentist with absolutely no desire to go back there.
Later on, it transforms into teeth anxiety as you end up deliberately delaying and missing appointments.
As far as being scared of going to the dentist is concerned, it’s vital to understand that this is a thing of the past. Even though the pain has been acute, state-of-the-art dental facilities offer a more painless and caring experience as opposed to 10-20 years ago.
The paradox, however, is that while being scared to go to the dentist because of anxiety about teeth, you’d still suffer a tremendous amount of constant pain from teeth that require immediate attention.
One of the biggest challenges that the dental community faces is that new, improved treatments are made accessible for people.
In the video here we have broken into simple steps the dental implant diagnostic process at Dentaprime UK.
How to deal with dental phobias
Dental phobia treatment in the UK may sometimes be rooted so deeply that you need therapy. Still, in the majority of cases with dental phobic patients, dental anxiety is often caused by lacking the correct information or finding the right nervous patients dentist. You need to know that there is nothing wrong with you – go on the internet and find the right “dental phobia dentist near me” – it’s just a case of shopping around. You don’t even have to physically attend the clinic, but start with a free online consultation.
Top 5 NHS advice for patients with dental anxiety include:
- Finding an understanding dentist
- Book an initial “scouting” visit to meet the staff
- Pick an appointment early in the morning
- Use headphones to listen to music
- Ask your dentist for a dental anxiety medication to calm down your nerves (diazepam for eg.)
Find a nervous patient dentist with plenty of experience
Overcoming dental fear is a challenging task. It is vital to share your fear of the dentist so that you can get the best possible treatment options for dental phobia. They are your primary source of information and comfort, so a seasoned dental professional should know how to help you overcome dental phobia. A comforting approach, transparent communication and timely updates on the treatment process (what has been done and what is to be expected later) are the traits of an empathetic dental professional who can handle your thoughts and worries with empathy.
Psychologists suggest that the best practice is to pick a time early in the morning for your dental implant examination. That way you don’t allow enough time to brood before the appointment. It is important to be mindful that the first visit is merely a check-up. There really should be no worries about having any work done at this point.
At Dentaprime UK in London, we tackle dental phobia with compassion for our patients. Our carefully designed pain-free treatment process starts with placing a numbing gel on the gums to prevent any pain at the very beginning. Afterwards, the local anesthesia allows you to remain conscious and receptive but not feel anything. The All- on-4/ All- on-6 dental implant procedures are very strict and thoroughly planned. If you still find the dentist too scary you can request a dentist that can put you to sleep. Your alternative option is to have your treatment with a dentist with anesthesia in our Dentaprime Varna clinic.
Mindfulness and community support
For the majority of people, a dental phobia may be disturbing but not disabling. Most patients seek help from their community before looking for dental phobia treatment in the UK. Communities are one of the most powerful tools for support that can offer peace of mind to anyone who needs it. The Dentaprime Community Support group is created to help ease the fear of dentists and offer assistance to dental implant patients who either seek or offer support to anyone in need.
You may be surprised but dentists are also actively working to aid with the fear reduction in patients with dental treatment phobia. An Australian dentist for nervous patients, Dr Sharonne Zaks, has created numerous free resources to assist patients worldwide on the subject of how to get over the dental phobia.
Bringing it all together
If you are determined to take control of your health and get your dream- smile back you can try the following tips. To manage extreme anxiety you can do something as simple as using earbuds to listen to your finest selection of mood-boosting music. Even better, get your favourite P.G. Wodehouse book on Amazon Audible. On the other hand, the latter may not be the best advice, as you would risk laughing too hard while having tools in your mouth and that may not be the wisest thing to do.
The true and most sustainable way to cope with dental anxiety is open communication with your dentist about your anxiety, being mindful of your own triggers and seeking help on how to avoid them. Once done, you will have the tools to know how to get over dentist fear and what are the best ways to make you less concerned and more secure.