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fear of dentist

Over time a number of people have developed a somewhat unhealthy fear of visiting the dentist. Overcoming this fear is imperative to one enjoying good dental health. If you are a parent your attitude towards dentist visits is also vital if your children are to develop a positive outlook on dental hygiene and visits to the dentist.

According to American psychiatrist, Karl Augustus Menninger, “Fears are educated into us and can, if we wish, be educated out.”

Fear is often a reaction to the unknown and that might be related to episodes in the past such as an unpleasant or painful experience related to a procedure. Often such a procedure may have been unanticipated or where a patient felt unable to control the situation. However, some people have anxiety or mood disorders associated with issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, etc., which may also reflect as fear towards the dentist.

Serious dental anxiety prevents millions of people across the world from seeking proper dental care. Most often, preventative care is all that is required. It is for this reason that the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends dental check ups from the time that the first few neonatal (baby) teeth erupt.

Although there is only a small percentage of people who avoid dentists mainly out of fear. There is a higher percentage of people who experience anxiety about going to the dentist. These people tend to visit the dentist only when absolutely necessary.

Here are some simple tips to help overcome fear of the dentist:
  • Uncover the cause of your fear for the dentist. Is it needles, or is it the sound of the drill? Do you fear the possibility of pain; or is it fear of picking up an infection? Once you have asked yourself these questions, you will be one step closer to dealing with what the real issues are.
  • Discuss your concerns with your dentist in an uninhibited manner. Aim to understand the procedure being performed, techniques involved, options of treatment and the possible outcome. Talking about these issues prior to the procedure may help to ease your anxiety and reduce stress during the procedure.
  • Be assertive without overstepping the line. When talking to the dentist about any anxieties you may have, be friendly without being too personal and enable the dentist to know how he or she can help you to feel more comfortable.
  • Ask for soothing music as a means of distraction. You can even listen to your own music while waiting. It also helps to take advantage of visual aids such as reading a pleasant book or magazine.
  • Have positive thoughts. There is very little, if any, pain associated with any procedure performed at a dental office. Anaesthetics are normally used to completely numb the area being treated. Dentists even offer a locally applied anaesthetic gel or solution that numbs the area before the injection is given.
  • Allow the dentist to consider sedation as a means of overcoming anxiety. The use of a sedative can make a procedure, such as extraction of wisdom teeth, more bearable. Available are various types of sedation such as inhalation and intravenous sedation, which can be used, to support the procedure to be performed.
  • Finally, consider seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or even a counsellor to discuss therapies such as desensitisation, which help with true phobias.

The practice of Dentistry has evolved from an era where a visit to a dentist was associated with pain, to one with a welcoming ambience with hardly any pain but rather a relaxing experience. Your dental health is vital to your overall well-being. Don’t let fear keep you from enjoying excellent oral health. Make an appointment to see your dentist today.

By Dr Kaizad Kermani

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