The sights. The sounds. The smells. The dread. Going to the dentist evokes fear in most people. The question is, why? What is it about the going to the dentist that makes you the most anxious? Whilst pondering that question, consider the following information. The purpose of this article is to discuss the different types of dental fear, its’ effects on your health and most importantly how you can overcome it.
Two months ago, I had a patient in my chair who had never had decay (a cavity) in their teeth before. Hence, they had never needed restorative treatment (a filling). The patient told me they were scared. Upon asking why, they told me how all their co-workers mentioned how bad and painful going the dentist is. Consequently, induced into my patient was a fear of the dentist that had never been there before.
The true anecdote described above is an example of subjective fear. In short, you may have a fear of the dentist only because others have suggested you should fear it or seeing how the media portrays dentists. A solution is to be accurately informed. Ask your dentist! A good dentist will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Try researching trusted sources such as the Canadian Dental Association’s website.
Following their treatment, I asked my patient how they felt. “Great!” they said, “I have no idea what everyone at work was talking about. I have no complaints.” Remember, subjective fear is something you can control.
Related to previous experiences and memories of dental treatment is objective fear. Perhaps you had a negative dental experience as a child or it may have been more recently. Feelings of uneasiness, anxiety and trepidation may alter your view of future dental treatment. This type of fear may be more difficult to deal with.
9%-15% of Americans avoid dental treatment because of their fear. The oral health effects can be detrimental. Regular prophylaxis, also known as cleanings, reduces the amount of plaque and calculus (tartar) in your mouth. When calculus is allowed to build up, it can cause gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Gingivitis if left untreated can lead to periodontitis – inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth. The tragic result is bone loss and loss of teeth.
With poor oral health come other side effects. One such side effect is an increase in heart problems. The bacteria on your teeth are able to disperse into the bloodstream and stick to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. Hence, periodontal disease can be part of the cause of clot development and heart attacks.
Although there are many, here are a few ways to help with your fear:
In serious cases of dental phobia, you may want to find a practice that offers Nitrous Oxide Sedation, IV Sedation or prescribes sedation medication.
I often say to my patients, “If you want to see us less – besides your regular check-ups and cleanings – you have to floss and brush more.” A little courage and TTLC (Tooth Tender Loving Care) will go a long way in a happy smile and a better quality of life.