Dental phobia can also be termed dental fear or odontophobia, dentophobia and dental anxiety. Dental phobia is the fear of dentistry and of receiving dental care. However a distinction has been made between dental anxiety, dental fear, and dental phobia.
Dental anxiety is a reaction usually made to an unknown danger. Anxiety is extremely common, and most people have been known to experience some degree of dental anxiety especially if they’re about to experience something which they’ve never experienced before. Basically, it all boils down to being fear of the unknown.
Dental fear is generally a reaction to a danger already known which involves a fight-or-flight response when confronted with the stimulus threatening the subject matter or person.
Dental phobia is basically the same as fear, the only difference is that it is much stronger. Here, the fight-or-flight response actually occurs when the individual just thinks about or gets reminded of the threatening situation. In other words, someone with a dental phobia will avoid dental care at every turn until either a physical problem or the psychological burden of the phobia becomes overwhelming.
The most common causes of dental phobia are bad experience, a history of abuse, uncaring dentists, vicarious learning and humiliation to mention but a few. The good news is that there are ways to overcome such phobia. The few ways to overcome one’s fear of visiting the dentist includes :
1. You can go to your very first visit with someone you trust, such as a close relative who has no fear of dentists. It is encouraged that friends and relatives should sit with the patient during treatment.
2. Another way you can help yourself is by seeking distraction while in the dentist’s chair. This you can do by listening to your own music on headphones preferably not one you’ve heard a lot, so you’ll be a little more interested in it. Also, you can find a dentist with a TV or other distractions available in the treatment room.
3. Another good way is you can try relaxation techniques. Sometimes controlled breathing which involves taking a big breath, holding it, and letting it out very slowly, like you are a leaky tire; helps a lot . This is because your heartbeat gets slowed down and you can easily relax your muscles. Another technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.
4. You can review with your dentist to know which sedatives are available or appropriate for the treatment . Options include local anesthetic, nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), oral sedatives, and intravenous sedation. While oversedation can be dangerous, too many dentists are uncomfortable using any oral sedation.
5. Lastly, If you can’t bring yourself to go to any dentist, you might try seeing a psychologist first. The most “tried and true approach” to treating dental phobia (and other phobias) is what is called “direct therapeutic exposure.” It involves introducing the patient to feared items like a needle which is done in a gradual and controlled manner.