Dental anxiety and dental phobia in North Hollywood, California
What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is the feeling of nervousness or fear felt before visiting the dentist. For some, even the thought of visiting the dentist can provoke fear. Dental anxiety is very common, and most people experience some degree of anxiety when undergoing a new procedure.
Dental phobia is similar to dental anxiety but much, much stronger. People with a dental phobia will usually avoid visiting the dentist at all costs. They can also feel anxiety at the mention of teeth, dentists or oral care (such as toothpaste advertisements). The term ‘phobia’ refers to an “an irrational, severe fear that leads to avoidance of the feared situation”. Many patients, though, may not perceive the fear as irrational.
Types of dental fears
There are actually many different types of dental fears, though many centers on fear of pain, loss of control and negative evaluation. Sometimes specific sights, sounds or smells can trigger fear, (such as the drill, the overhead light, or the smell of the room). Some patients dread the helpless feeling of lying back on the chair, or the invasion of personal space when the dentist examines their teeth.
Causes of dental phobia
In most cases, dental fear can be traced back to a negative or traumatic previous experience with a dentist, in which the patient felt pain, helplessness or humiliation. In some cases, an existing anxiety condition (such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Generalized Anxiety) can result in dental anxiety or phobia.
How can we help you?
The most important thing you can do is to tell our staff if you are feeling uneasy or uncomfortable in any way. Once we understand your history and the specific nature of your fears, we can adjust many aspects of our procedure to make you more comfortable. We are also able to break your treatment down into smaller, more manageable visits if required.
Because Dr. Ron is highly qualified in assisting anxious and phobic patients, he understands the gentle and relaxing treatment required during your appointment. We appreciate that each patient is different, so spend time building one-on-one relationships to determine how we can better cater to their needs.
We also place an emphasis on communication and find that maintaining a conversation with the patient throughout the appointment can greatly assist with easing their anxiety and taking their mind off the procedure.
Additionally, our practice has been designed to be a relaxing and stress-free environment, so you’ll find soothing music playing in the background, as well as staff which has a calm and caring demeanor.
Predictably the study found that the fearful patients were more likely to have at least one missing or decaying tooth. Surprisingly, the dental phobia was also broadly linked to a poorer quality of life.
While oral diseases aren’t usually life-threatening, the study noted that they can affect people’s ability to eat, drink, speak and socialize, and therefore, the overall quality of life.
One way to ease patients’ anxiety is to offer a detailed plan for preventive care that they can do at home, said Newton, a professor of psychology.
“Ideally,” he said, “we would want to help them overcome their dental phobia and attend the dentist, but in the interim perhaps we could be helping them to take good care of their teeth themselves.”