A person wearing a white coat and dental loupes looks like an ominous figure standing in front of you. You are sitting on a dental engine, wondering what will happen next. The sight of sharp dental tools is making you feel anxious. When your dentist comes closer, your mind perceives it as an imminent threat. Every moment feels agonizingly long as you eagerly wait for the appointment to be over. If the scenario above describes how you feel when at a dentist, you may be suffering from dentophobia.
So, what is dentophobia?
It refers to the fear of dentists or a particular dental procedure. Also known as odontophobia, dental anxiety includes several triggers such as physical objects (for example, forceps, drill, scaler, etc.), smells of dentistry (such as eugenol, latex gloves, anti-bacterial soaps, etc.), the anticipation of pain, and being in the dentist’s chair, among others. A person struggling with dentophobia may continue to avoid visiting a dentist even when their dental health is at risk.
What are the causes of dentophobia?
The reasons why a significant number of people experience dental phobia include the following.
Previous traumatic experience
A negative experience during a dental treatment may have emotional consequences. The painful experiences at a dental clinic fuel dental anxiety in children and adults alike.
Other kinds of phobia
Sometimes, dentophobia stems from other types of phobias, including trypanophobia (fear of needles), aichmophobia (fear of sharp objects), hemophobia (fear of blood), and nosocomephobia (fear of clinics and hospitals). In such cases, psychiatric help and dental healthcare should go hand in hand.
How to overcome dentophobia?
The following steps should help if you are afraid of dentists and dental treatments.
Do not visit the clinic directly on the day of your treatment. Meet your dentist before the treatment and discuss your concerns and fears. Take time to acclimatize to the environment, build a rapport with your dentist, and discuss the steps of the procedure. This familiarity helps reduce your anxiety significantly.
Signal a break
Take a break during the treatment if you feel your heart is in your mouth. Breathe deeply, plug your earphones in and play calming music to relieve your anxiety. Let your dentist know beforehand that pain increases your anxiety, and you may need a break during the procedure.
Consult a counsellor
Our dentists are very supportive when working with patients suffering from dentophobia. We do not mind going the extra mile to make our patients feel at ease before the treatment. While rare, if there is no considerable change despite these measures, you may want to see a therapist to address your dental anxiety.