Dental phobia

Fear of the dentist is widely known as dental phobia but several other designations exist, such as odontophobia, or dental fear, dental anxiety, dentist phobia, etc. Dental phobia is not all as rare as one would imagine: it afflicts over 5 % of people. Sometimes the fear is so intense that people may evade the dentist for decades on end and only report at the clinic when the problem is grave. Severe dental issues could be prevented by reporting for regular check-ups. Prevention and minor dental interventions represent less of a financial burden than treating severe conditions when things are all “coming crumbing down”.

What are the major causes underlying dental phobia?

It may be due to a number of reasons, but usually there is a negative experience lurking in the background. Negative sentiments may be triggered by certain smells, tastes experienced during the treatment or sounds leaving the dental clinic. Equally frequent is the fear of pain or dental instruments and fear of the unknown. Often anxiety is set off indirectly, e. g. when an adult expresses their fear in front of their child. Movies and cartoons also tend to portray dentists and the dental clinic as fearsome. Preferably avoid daunting your child by dentists or dental treatments if they are unwilling to brush, for instance. For we do not threaten our child who is fidgety at the barber’s shop by saying „The auntie will cut off your ears with the scissors unless you stay put.”

Let’s make it a point not to take our child to the dentist only in the event of a toothache or complaint but let’s also accompany them to check-ups and get them acquainted with the situation, by way of exposing them to positive experiences rather than „throwing them in at the deep end” and taking them for treatment when a dental issue has already presented.

Is there a cure for dental phobia?

Yes. Much in the same way as psychogenic problems in general, this one too can be treated by taking a couple of simple measures.

  • Get acquainted with the clinic. Today’s dental clinics are less austere and hostile than of old, bearing more resemblance to a living room than to a hospital, which was a prominent consideration in designing the waiting rooms, seeing how a pleasant and comfortable ambiance will make your waiting time more relaxed. The first encounter should be about getting acquainted. Only get on with your treatment if you have satisfied yourself of the clinic and found the dentist personable.
  • Be circumspect when selecting a dentist. Based on an American study empathy and sense of humour rank foremost when selecting a doctor. A good-humoured, relaxed and reliable doctor will more efficiently reduce anxiety.
  • Always communicate. If you feel any discomfort, be at ease to tell your doctor. Although your dentist will monitor your every twitch, on occasion they may be so immersed in their work that something may have escaped their attention. Please, therefore, signal your doctor if something twinges, aches or is sore. In the event of trouble a general convention is hoisting the hand as talking is rather cumbersome during treatment.
  • Practise breathing in a relaxed manner with your mouth open through your nose. In the event of an increased pharyngeal reflex (gagging) this is a handy trick.
  • If you are abhorred by sounds bring along your earphones and music you like which helps you relax.
  • In case of waist and neck pains comfortable cushions are available for your comfort.

 It is very important to recognise our problems and feel at ease to talk about them as a lot of people are standing by to help us overcome our fear. We must not turn the other way. We must regularly report for dental check-ups so that dentists can intervene if necessary, and avert major treatments which are not only financially onerous but may also land us in a vicious circle of psychological distress.

In the event of an episode of anxious distress the following symptoms may present themselves:

  • anxiety, fear
  • pessimism
  • palpitations
  • globus sensation (feeling of lump in the throat)
  • tremor
  • transpiration
  • abdominal discomfort
  • lightheadedness
  • rapid pulse rate
  • chest pain
  • intermittent breathing
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth

How to reduce anxiety caused by the dental treatment at the dental clinic?

Since every individual differs there is no generally applicable method to reduce anxiety. With the help of our experienced doctor you can jointly decide on the anxiety relief method best suited for you.

  • Often getting acquainted with the clinic, doctor and a friendly relationship established with clinic staff and a cosy ambience will do the trick of overcoming your fears.
  • In the event of mild stress or anxiety an oral sedative or stress relief medication may be taken (these medications can be taken 1 hour prior to the intervention, e. g. Xanax pills) which will, on many occasions, prove adequate. In such instances the patient is completely conscious, breathes on their own and their bodily functions are intact. The medicine has a relaxing, sedative effect, difficult to control, which varies by person. No memory loss occurs.
  • If the effect of the oral pills is unsatisfactory and symptoms of anxiety persist conscious sedation may also be considered. This is carried out on site by an anaesthesiologist. In such an instance the sedative is administered through the vein to relieve anxiety with the patient falling into a light half-awake slumber. The patient responds to instructions throughout the treatment and communicates with the doctor but does not recall the treatment in its entirety. They will experience no pain during the treatment but will feel relaxed. At the end of the treatment the patient will get a wake-up injection which suspends the effect of the sedative, and will recover consciousness within a matter of minutes. The procedure can be controlled perfectly well. In the event the patient wakes up ahead of time, we simply need to administer another dose of the medicine and the patient falls back asleep. Since this is not an induced coma, the procedure can be repeated within a short time, unlike deep anaesthesia.
  • General anaesthesia is almost never necessary and can only be performed in a hospital environment. In this instance the patient falls into an induced coma or deep anaesthesia and respiration needs to be maintained by machines. Only particularly great risk levels associated with a panic disorder, dental fear or loss of communication with the patient warrant this procedure, if the treatment is unduly long or if several oral surgeries are required in one session.