It is estimated amongst adults as many as 75% experience varying degrees of dental phobia or anxiety and as many as 10% suffer severe dental phobia to the extent that they will only seek dental care when they have a dental emergency, such as a toothache. Most people tend to report that their dental fear began after a traumatic or painful dental experience at some point earlier in their life, for example a bad experience as a child. Even years after their initial experience, various triggers can bring these bad memories flooding back.
This can include the sights of dental practice layout, equipment, the sound of the drill or the saliva suction. Even the smell of a dental surgery or the latex glove can be a powerful emotional trigger. When people experience these panic attacks, it can manifest in various ways. For example, the patient could start to breathe rapidly, the skin color goes pale, profuse sweating occurs and some may even faint momentarily.
Unfortunately, some people have such bad dental phobia they tend to avoid seeing a dentist. It's common for us to hear from someone in their twenties or thirties or even older who hasn't been to the dentist since childhood. As a result, the years without dental care can cause very poor oral health, resulting decayed teeth, gum disease, broken teeth and teeth abcesses.
There are various means to treat the dental phobic patient. For example, nitrous oxide, sedation or a general anaesthetic. However, unless the core problem of the dental phobia is overcome, patients will still be reluctant to seek dental care which can lead to further dental problems down the track.
At North Road Dental Centre, we not only aim to treat dental problems but also aim to treat the dental phobia itself through behavioural management. For all of our patients who were committed to overcoming their dental phobia and were willing to work closely with us, we've had excellent results.
If you haven't seen a dentist for years because of fear or anxiety ring our polite, kind and gentle staff and start yourself on the road to overcoming your phobia.
Tips to Ease Dental Fear
- Tell us what you're anxious about so we know beforehand.
- Pick an appointment time early in the morning so you have less time to dwell on it.
- Take a friend with you to your appointment.
- Signal that you need a break during treatment and want us to stop. It can be as simple as pointing your finger, and will help you feel more in control.
- Start gradually with a clean and polish then work up to more extensive treatment.
- To help you relax, take a personal stereo with you to listen to music during your visit.