The ‘Root’ of the Problem
12. 10. 2016
Avoiding the dentists for many days and bearing the pain? Fear is the first reason behind avoiding a regular dental checkup. Most people age no bar; experience a sense of anxiety about visiting a dentist. Some avoid due to fear of painful drills while some abhor the idea due to a bad past experience. Whatever may be the reason; it is widely known that a regular visit to the dentist is necessary to maintain oral hygiene. These anxious patients need to understand that the longer they wait before seeing a dentist more serious problems will inevitably develop thus making emergency dentists visit.
Dental anxiety and dental phobia is a very common problem but could lead to serious long term illness like periodontal diseases, early tooth loss, etc. Some studies even suggest that poor oral health could cause heart diseases and lung infection.
Dental anxiety and dental phobia are different. Patients with dental anxiety will show signs of uneasiness and exaggerated fears at the time of visit. People with dental phobia are simply terrified by the thought of meeting a dentist. It is a more serious problem. Dispelling these fears is extremely important in order to maintain oral hygiene.
Some signs which proves that a person has dental phobia and anxiety.
- Difficulty in sleeping the night before the appointment.
- Very nervous and fidgety while in the waiting room at the doctor’s chamber.
- The sight of dental instruments and the smell increases anxiety.
- During examination the patient panics when an object is placed in the mouth.
- The thought of a visit to the dentist itself makes the person ill.
The cause for dental phobia and anxiety could vary from person to person like
- Most patients avoid visiting a dentist for the fear of pain. Most people imagine severe pain during procedure hence avoids a visit altogether.
- Some develop phobia of ‘loss of control’. It means that these people should always have full control over every situation; which cannot happen while sitting on the dentist chair.
- Some patients have reported to be embarrassed due to the close proximity of the doctor and the patient. As dental treatment does require physical closeness the patient feels ashamed or even self conscious.
- A discomforting past experience with the dentist could also lead to the fear of visiting the dentist.
There are numerous ways in which a person can overcome the fear of visiting a dentist. Some proven methods are
- Addressing fear: the patient should remember that the dentists are medical professionals just like any other doctor. The patient should face their fears and speak out about them to the doctor. Most of the dentists are specially trained to cater to patients who are anxious. Talking about the fear or may be a past event that has triggered this fear and learning to accept them is an effective way of overcoming this phobia.
- Outside support: for a nervous patient the first visit to the dentist should be with a trusted friend or relative who does not fear dentist. They can even encourage the patient to sit for the entire treatment.
- Distract yourself: the patient can carry a stress ball or bring some music to listen to while getting the teeth examined. This form of distraction helps the patient to relax during treatment. Yoga and meditation before visiting the dentist is a great stress buster.
- Best dentist: the patient should establish a good relationship with the dentist. The patient should be made comfortable during the visit. They can even take the treatment in a step by process; that is the patient could first just have the tooth examined, then come back another day for treatment. Even the treatment can be spread out over a number of sessions. These low stress sessions helps in coping with anxiety.
- Teeth condition: brushing the teeth thoroughly and use mouthwash before visiting the dentist. This will prevent the embarrassment in front of the doctor.
- Stay controlled: one of the worst fears is lack of control by the patient over the treatment or the environment in general. The dentist can best help the patient by performing the treatment at the pace of the patient and maintaining patience. For example the doctor can first explain to the patient regarding the procedure, what the patient should feel after treatment and how long the treatment will take. During treatment the doctor could frequently ask the patient for permission to continue. Either way the doctor could give a free hand to the patient to stop the procedure at any time if the patient gets uncomfortable. Any method which will make the patient less anxious is the best method for that patient.
- Psychological way: under extreme cases where the patient is just unable to even visit the doctor’s chamber; then a psychological session could prove to be beneficial. A good psychologist or counselor can treat phobias by some desensitization therapy and various other techniques. These methods are effective in overcoming fear.
- Sedation: There have been cases wherein psychological techniques, effective communication and other methods have not been fruitful in removing the anxiety and phobia from the patient. Under such circumstances sedation may be considered. Sedation dentistry has been touted as the best solution for overcoming the fear of the dentist but most dentists avoid this procedure. Some doctors use it as the last resort if all other techniques fail. Sedation is not an option but may be considered an addition to the ongoing psychological techniques. Inhalation sedation (laughing gas) is most useful for patients who want control over situations. IV sedation is best recommended for patients who just want the treatment to be completed at the earliest time possible.
It should be remembered that a positive experience or remembering the treatment is one of the best ways to overcome fear.
For anxious patients brushing and flossing regularly can reduce the chances of a visit to a dentist.