Afraid Of Going To The Dentist?

 There are many people for whom a simple trip to the dentist is far from simple.  75% of adults in the US experience fear before a dental visit. While many of us may be a bit nervous, some individuals have a more intense reaction called ‘dentophobia. ‘

Dentophobia covers a range of specific fears but they all have one thing in common, adrenaline. People who have a dental phobia experience their nervous or anxious feelings in an extreme way. When the body is stimulated by fear, it produces adrenaline and dumps it directly into the bloodstream which gives a heightened sense of awareness. Heart rate and blood pressure can increase as they would in a ‘fight or flight’ situation and all senses are on high alert.    

What are some causes of dental phobias?

Most phobias are linked to a certain emotionally charged scenario, image or noise that sets off a chain reaction in the patient’s mind, causing the adrenaline rush. Common stimulus for the phobia include the loud noise caused by the drill, the potential embarrassment of having terrible looking teeth or the simple experience of lying in a chair before a stranger wearing a mask.

How can you treat a dental phobia?

The most important step is to analyze the cause. What is the trigger image and what starts the cycle of terrifying scenarios that run through the mind?

Once the trigger or triggers are identified, the process of detaching them from the nervous system response can begin.

The most well-known method is aversion therapy which is done by gradually increasing a person’s contact with the cause of the phobia. This lessens the impact over time. For dentophobia, aversion therapy might involve sitting in a dentist’s chair without receiving treatment, talking to the dentist in his practice and going through the steps leading up to the actual treatment in logical steps. If you know that dental tools set off your adrenaline response, ask to hold them first so they don’t seem quite so scary and cold. Aversion therapy can work far quicker than people realize.

Other treatments that can be used alongside aversion therapy include breathing exercises to calm the pulse, an important element in controlling adrenaline levels in many situations. Even top athletes must manage their adrenaline in this fashion.

Instead of avoiding a trip to the dentist because of your fear, contact the office and tell them of your concerns. Your dentist and his staff will be very willing to work with you to control your dental phobia.

photo credit: Shandi-lee via photopin cc

Tags: , ,