While it may be non-threatening for some patients, the thought of general dentistry is triggering for others. Medical professionals refer to this fear and anxiety surrounding dental treatments, tools, and facilities as dentophobia, or fear of the dentist. And, while this fear may be paralyzing at times, there are a number of ways that patients can address dentophobia in Dallas, TX.
At Lakewood Dental Group, our skilled dentists, Drs. Shaun Sigurdson and Mihir Patel, believe that exceptional dental care should not cost you your comfort. That’s why our team offers numerous anxiety-reducing options to help you get the care you deserve. If you’re ready to experience compassionate dental care, call (214) 827-1885 or send us a message online here.
In this post, our Dallas dentists define dentophobia and explore reasons why you may have dental anxiety. Understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ is just the first step in getting the comprehensive and gentle care that you need.
What is dentophobia?
A phobia is an extreme fear of something, like an object, act, or concept. Dentophobia is an intense fear of dentists, dental facilities, dental tools, and the sensations associated with a dental office (e.g. shrill drilling and sterile smells).
This intense fear may keep some patients from visiting our Dallas dentists, even if they are in extreme pain. Subsequently, dentophobia may lead to worsening oral health conditions that can quickly deplete one’s quality of life.
What are the signs and symptoms of dental anxiety?
There is a wide range of signs and symptoms of dental anxiety, including:
- Restlessness or insomnia in the days leading up to dental treatments
- Extreme dizziness or fainting spells
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble concentrating
- Intense emotional reactions to dentists, dental tools, or dental offices, such as screaming or crying
How common is dentophobia?
Although many medical professionals consider dentophobia an extreme fear of the dentist, the condition is actually on a spectrum. This means that patients may have varying degrees of dental anxiety that worsens in certain situations.
And, because dentophobia is on a spectrum, it is far more common than patients may think. In fact, approximately 36% of Americans report feeling afraid of impending dental treatments. However, nearly 12% of patients report an intense fear of the dentist that precludes them from seeking help when they need it most.
Indeed, experts estimate that roughly 3% of all adults completely neglect getting necessary dental care due to an extreme fear of the dentist. But, these patients may be putting their oral and overall health in grave danger the longer they wait to see a dentist.
What happens if I stop seeing a dentist?
Although it may feel like it, avoiding our dentists in Lakewood is not an ideal solution to manage dental anxiety. This is because neglecting one’s oral health may result in extensive dental issues, such as:
- Significant dental decay
- Halitosis (chronic bad breath)
- Advancing gum (periodontal) disease
- Low jaw bone density
- Prolonged dental damage
- Total tooth loss
- Difficulty speaking and eating
Additionally, avoiding the dentist may place patients at greater risk of developing systemic health conditions, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Pregnancy complications
- Respiratory issues
- Neurological conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Life-threatening sepsis
Clearly, avoiding the dentist only creates more issues that can cause lasting damage to one’s mouth and body. Subsequently, patients should explore the root cause of their dentophobia to better understand and manage their fear.
How does dental anxiety develop?
Patients can get dental anxiety for many reasons, including:
- Fear of blood and pain: The mouth is a uniquely nerve-dense area of the body (which is why babies learn by exploring with their mouths!). It is for this reason that many patients anticipate and fear pain during dental procedures. Furthermore, the sight, smell, and taste of blood may worsen the effects of dentophobia, leading some patients to spiral with anxiety.
- Fear of needles and dental tools: There are very few dental treatments (if any!) that do not require the help of specialized dental tools. Although many of these tools do not inflict pain, many patients associate all dental tools with pain, especially hypodermic needles.
- Fear of gagging, vomiting, or choking: Dentophobia may blend with other phobias, like emetophobia (an intense fear of vomiting) or phagophobia (an extreme fear of choking). As a result, some patients fear that dental treatments may cause them to gag, throw up, or choke during their procedure.
- Fear of sensations: Aside from physical touch, the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office may be particularly triggering for some patients. This may be due to past experiences in which high-pitched drilling sounds and sterile smells dominate the bad memory.
- Bad experiences in the past: We often use our experiences of the past to shape and solidify our current opinions. So, it’s no wonder why some patients believe that one bad dental experience is indicative of all dental experiences. Fortunately, our Lakewood dentists work diligently to help patients address dentophobia to deliver gentle and effective care.
How Our Lakewood Dentists Can Help Treat Dentophobia
Our dentists in Dallas can help patients address intense dental anxiety with several nerve-calming solutions, such as:
- Anxiety-reducing medications: Our Dallas dentists believe that good oral health care is comprehensive. This means that our team works closely with patients’ primary care physicians to determine which anxiety-reducing medications can allow patients to get the dental care they need to thrive.
- Sedation: Oral and intravenous (IV) sedation allows patients to completely relax into their treatments. These medications also allow our team to work better and faster, which typically leads to a shorter recovery and better treatment outcomes.
- Anesthesia: Dentists can use both local and general anesthesia to ensure pain-free procedures. Local anesthesia numbs the treatment site, while general anesthesia puts patients in a sleep-like state.
- Comfort options: Items like warm blankets and fluffy pillows can help patients get comfortable and settle into their treatments. Once cozy, our team can further enhance patients’ comfort by offering welcome distractions, like their favorite TV shows, movies, or music.
Address Dental Anxiety with Our Dentists in Dallas, TX
Is dentophobia keeping you from getting the exceptional oral care that you need? Don’t let fear rule you anymore–schedule an appointment with the compassionate team at Lakewood Dental Group to discuss dental anxiety today.
Patients can send our team a message here, or they may call our Dallas dental office now at (214) 827-1885 to get started.