Even though the term might make some people smile incredulously at first sight, dental anxiety is actually a real and quite common mental health issue. Also known as dentophobia or fear of dentists, this condition belongs to the blood/injection/injury-related phobias listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). It is typically characterized by noticeable avoidance and/or postponement of dentist visits and dental treatments. This article might help overcome dental anxiety by clarifying its core aspects and exposing the most common solutions.
The most common symptoms include:
One or several of those may sometimes result in extreme dental anxiety, triggering negative reactions by the individual (even when simply hearing or thinking about the word dentist).
Let us emphasize that the problem is very real and legitimate. Thus the individual’s entourage should take this seriously and be aware of some root causes such as:
So how to deal with dental anxiety? Furthermore, should an affected individual try and overcome dental anxiety? The short answer is yes. In effect, a prolonged avoidance of routine dental care and/or treatments can lead to severe consequences on oral health. Potential issues (inflammations, gum recession, cavities, oral cancer, etc.) cannot be diagnosed in time, which would result in severe losses or complications.
Among the most important dental anxiety treatment options, let us insist on the necessity of appropriate psychotherapy (along with psychiatric treatment when needed). The problem may be indeed closely connected to more profound psychological aspects that might not be obvious if left uninvestigated. So don’t shy away from consulting with a mental health professional.
Another useful method is to work directly on your relationship with your dentist. Take the time to get to know them better and familiarize yourself with their approach, treatment style, etc. Don’t be afraid of sharing your reluctance with them. Some dentists are also specialized in anxiety management and are able to give dental anxiety tips. And if you run into a dentist who lacks patience and understanding, just… run away. That person is certainly not qualified enough for that kind of profession and what it truly takes.
Other than those, you may benefit from a few “tricks” during the treatment itself. For example, your dentist may play some music you enjoy or you may listen to some on your own with your headphones. Watching TV, playing games, etc. during the session might also help provided they don’t distract the dentist excessively.
Last but not least, let’s not forget sedation dentistry. Some dental health professionals are indeed also specialized in sedation for dental anxiety. This involves the usage of specific medication likely to help you relax during the treatment. The appropriate dose naturally varies from one case to another (from mild sedation to general anesthesia). So consult with your dentist to see what is the most appropriate for your needs.
How to deal with dental anxiety?
There are several possibilities you can opt for to overcome dental anxiety. Psychotherapy (with or without psychiatric treatment), collaborating with your dentist to come up with a personalized program that follows your own pace, and sedative dentistry are the most common and effective options.
What are the symptoms of dental anxiety?
Fear and avoidance of dentists/dental clinics, fear of any medical treatment in general, fear of needles, fear of drills, and vomiting are common symptoms.
How to treat patients with dental anxiety?
If the facility where the dentist is working is a multidisciplinary one, this is certainly an advantage. They can consult with their colleagues as well as the other relevant departments (clinical psychology, psychiatry, music therapy, anesthesiology, etc.) in order to design a more wholesome treatment program. If this is not possible, the dentist should nevertheless adopt a holistic/multidisciplinary approach and find the most appropriate strategy for any given patient.