Are You Afraid Of The Dentist?
A large percentage of the patients that call my practice express fear and anxiety when contemplating making the phone call. The thought of actually coming in and sitting in ‘the chair’ can induce a full blown phobia. I believe that it would be helpful for you to know that you are not unusual. Many, many others share your fear.
I don’t need to tell you what a dental phobia is. Chances are you can relate to the cartoon! There is a difference between fear, anxiety and phobia. The following is taken from www.dentalfearcentral.org
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEAR, ANXIETY AND PHOBIA
A distinction has been made between dental anxiety, dental fear, and dental phobia.
DENTAL ANXIETY is a reaction to an UNKNOWN danger. Anxiety is extremely common, and most people experience some degree of dental anxiety especially if they’re about to have something done which they’ve never experienced before. Basically, it’s a fear of the unknown.
DENTAL FEAR is a reaction to a known danger (“I know what the dentist is going to do, been there, done that – I’m scared!!”), which involves a fight-or-flight response when confronted with the threatening stimulus.
DENTAL PHOBIA is basically the same as fear, only much stronger (“I know what happens when I go to the dentist – there’s no way I’m going back if I can help it. I’m so terrified I feel sick”). Also, the fight-or-flight response occurs when just thinking about or being reminded of the threatening situation. Someone with a dental phobia will avoid dental care at all costs until either a physical problem or the psychological burden of the phobia becomes overwhelming. The website dentalfearcentral.org has a vast amount of helpful information and I highly recommend you take a look. It is written by a dental patient who has struggled just like you. This particular person’s fears stemmed from childhood abuse and dental treatment was a major trigger for the anxiety. While your fear is not unusual, there are many different and uniqe reasons that you are fearful of the dentist and I find the insights on this sight to be very revealing.
Common fears are embarrassment, loss of control, pain, choking, gagging, fear of the drill or the noise of the drill, fear of the chair, fear of having your mouth and nose covered, fear of the inability to communicate during treatment and more. What I want you to know is that your mouth is not the worst we’ve seen. I promise. If it is then good for you for doing better when you can. Your dentist and the dental team are not there to judge you. They should celebrate your decision and anticipate each step of the journey with you.
SMALL HELPFUL STEPS
When you get up the nerve to call for an appointment, identify the fact that you are anxious and fearful of the dentist. You should feel that the staff is compasionate and listening. At our office we invite the patient to stop by any time for a tour and a cup of coffee to see if we are a good fit for them. There is always someone who can take the time to visit with you for a bit.
Don’t just ask if the dentist deals with anxious patients. Ask how he deals with them. What tools does he have in his tool box? There are options like oral sedation and behavioral modification to help ease you through your first few visits. All of them if necessary. We can work with you to give back a sense of control and participation.
If you are scared, nervous, anxious or full blown FREAKED OUT!!!, you are pretty common. We hear about it every day! You are the generation that lived through dentistry before the advances in technology and pharmacology. Time to give it another try.
I’ll be pulling for you!