The word Phobia comes from the Greek word phóbos that means fear or morbid fear. This is defined as a persistent, abnormal, irrational fear for a specific thing or condition that makes the person to avoid the feared situation, object or activity. A person subjected to this feared stimulus becomes terribly anxious and this could lead to panic attack. The dental phobia not only causes a lot of distress but also affects drastically all aspects of his life in addition to oral health. It is quite likely that dental phobics spend a lot of time thinking about teeth or dentists or dental situations; or alternately they may try their best to avoid thinking about them. Continue to read for knowing more about this phenomenon.
My experiences with dentists in my young age were pretty bad; because of this I always was afraid of taking dental treatment from any dentist. - Carol Seaton - U.K
After growing up with a fear of dentists my only visit would be when I was in pain and would have the tooth extracted. - Rosemary Ferguson - U.K
The above statements were made by two of the patients who visited our dental clinic, Vignesh Dental Specialty Center at Bangalore. This is not something new; a large number of people are reluctant to visit a dentist because they are of fear for dentists and their equipments and such people suffer either from dental anxiety or fear or phobia and if these conditions are serious they cancel or avoid their appointments.
The differences between the above three conditions are as given below.
The risk of Gum Diseases and tooth loss is high on persons with dental phobia. Avoiding the dental treatment also will affect the patient emotionally. Because their teeth are discolored or damaged these patients feel insecure and self-conscious. They hardly smile and keep their mouth partially closed while speaking to avoid displaying bad teeth. This affects both their personal and professional lives and they lose their self-esteem.
Poor oral health can cause certain life-threatening conditions – heart disease and lung infections and they will have poor life expectancy.
Many patients affected by dental anxiety suffer from severe dental phobia and they find it horrifying to go for dental treatment. Such people avoid seeing dentists or avoid dental appointments because they are terrified as well as panic-stricken. If they have no other alternative than going to the dentist they might not sleep for the whole night prior to appointment or they might become sick in the dentists’ office when they wait for treatment.
These persons will have poor oral health. They might suffer from infected gums and decayed teeth because of which they find it difficult to chew food and digest it properly. All these things could lead to halitosis or unattractive smile which will make them lose self-confidence and make them feel insecure.
Many children are terribly afraid of dental treatment and it is very difficult to take them for dental treatments.It is highly essential that children are exposed to regular dental checkups.
The following suggestions will be of some use for children who have dental anxiety or severe dental phobia:
Instruments such as Corah's Dental Anxiety Scale (DAS) and Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) are used for measuring the extent of fear. Your score might be high if you suffer from dental phobia.
People with dental phobia might show the following symptoms:
Persons having such problems must have a discussion with the dentist who will allay their fears. He might make necessary adjustments to the treatment procedures to overcome the feelings and fears. He may also refer the patient to the psychiatrist.
It is possible to treat dental phobia just like treating any other mental disorder. It will become worse if it is not treated because the patient will find more discomfort emotionally during the dental visits.
Patients who are tense more than normal are likely to have a lower pain threshold. These persons require additional anesthetic or other methods of pain treatments. They may also suffer from side-effects such as headaches, muscle stiffness in the neck or back.
Treatments for dental phobia can be any of the following.
It has been found that you can reduce the stress levels of the hormones, pain and anxiety by using certain relaxation techniques. If you practice these relaxation techniques you might be able to reduce the fear responses.
The following are some of the relaxation technique that you could follow for reducing your stress levels, anxiety and fear.