In western countries, statistics show that 7 to 13 percent of the population have phobias. Women are also twice as likely to suffer from phobia compared to men. However, since a lot of people are not very comfortable talking about their phobias, it is believed that the figure may be higher.
Nowadays, dental phobia is seen as a rising problem. Also known as dentophobia, dental phobia is a fear of dental work and/or dentists. However, dental phobia is triggered by a multi-layered set of stimuli. This results in different levels of fear and different symptoms experienced by each individual.
Causes of Dental Phobia
Since dentophobia is a generic fear of dental work and dentists, many people suffering from the condition find it difficult to visit their dentists without experiencing anxiety or other symptoms. In some cases, attacks can be triggered by the mere sounds, smells, and sights of dental procedures or dental related things.
In most dentophobia cases, the fear will revolve around something that’s personal and specific. The following are some examples of fears that are classified as dental phobia:
- Fear of dentists. For some people dentists are authoritarian figures that will check if their teeth have been looked after accordingly. This kind of fear and perception can often be traced to childhood visits to the dentist.
- Fear of pain. Avoiding pain is a natural instinct. For patients who have had a painful experience at the dental office when they were kids, relaxing while in the dental chair can be very difficult (if not impossible).
- Fear of choking. This is another fear that can make everyday life challenging. Unfortunately, when one visits the dentist, this phobia can become even more pronounced.
- Fear of numbness. Many people with dentophobia avoid visiting their dentists because they are afraid they won’t be able to control the level of pain or call for help when needed.
- Fear of embarrassment. Many patients with dental phobia will bend over backwards just to avoid visiting their dentist. This can result in other oral problems as any dental issue can get worse without proper treatment.
- Fear of needles. Fear of needles is another prevalent phobia many find difficult to deal with. For many, distracting themselves can be extra challenging especially if all they can think about is the needle that goes into the gums.
- Fear from past experiences. This could be their own experience or hearing about a bad experience from another person at the dentist which is brought up every time they think about the dentist, and ultimately keeps them away from visiting the dental practice.
For dental phobics, even the mere thought of visiting their dentist is enough to fill them with dread. Unfortunately, dentophobia has serious implications. Many people with dentophobia go for years without visiting their dentists. They hope they can avoid visiting their dentists forever.
However, visiting the dentist once every six months is considered ideal. Oftentimes, dentists are able to spot early signs of disease that can benefit from early treatment. Also, since patients with dental phobia avoid visiting their dentists for as long as they could, they run the risk of needing more complex dental work in the future.
What Dental Phobics Can Do
While the idea of visiting the dentist fills most dental phobics with dread, the implications of skipping dental care can also make them anxious and stressed. In a similar situation, most people will feel helpless.
If it is any consolation, dental phobia is very common. That said, dental professionals are well-equipped when it comes to recognising patients who need support and helping them manage their phobia.
If you have dental phobia, it is recommended that you talk to your dentist and find out about the support they can provide. Be honest about your phobia and ask for their expert guidance on how you can move forward. Dentists are always there to help you overcome your fears, on top of treating and restoring your dental condition.