Are you more afraid of seeing the dentist than finding a monster under your bed? Are you anxious and experiencing an increased heart rate when you consider going to the dentist? If you think you are the only one going through this, find comfort in knowing that you are certainly not alone. Even though going to the dentist and seeing your doctor are not particularly thrilling, you may have dental anxiety or phobia if they make you feel exceedingly uneasy and apprehensive.
Is Dental Anxiety Common?
Dental anxiety and phobia are highly common; one in five people in the UK report fear when going to the dentist, and the condition affects children and adults worldwide. According to the Oral Health Foundation, more than 10 million adults in the UK struggle with dental anxiety, and more than six million have phobias. Missed dentist appointments, poor compliance, and subsequently, poor oral health conditions have all been directly linked to the underlying fear and phobia.
Are Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia The Same?
Dental anxiety and phobia are often used interchangeably, and many believe they are the same issue. However, the truth is that dental anxiety and phobia are two different conditions. They are interlinked and stem from the same causative factors.
Dental anxiety is a fear of visiting the dentist. It can stem from a deep-seated fear resulting from a past poor experience or a fear of the instruments, needles or a fear of a mishap. In most cases, the affected individual is aware of their fears and backs them with reason. Depending upon the intensity, dental anxiety is manageable in most cases. However, dental phobia is an extremely irrational fear of the dentist.
In most cases, patients with dental phobia cannot cope and fail to attend their dental appointments. Dental phobias are on a much higher spectrum of fear when compared to dental anxiety and often require extensive treatment with a behavioural counsellor or a therapist.
Why Are Dental Anxiety and Phobia Concerning?
According to a study in the British Dental Journal, individuals with dental anxiety and phobia have worse oral health than those who don’t have these concerns. However, a recent study published in the International Dental Journal brings attention to another worrying truth: its effects have a negative impact on people’s overall quality of life. It can eventually have disastrous effects on one’s psychological and social well-being because it is strongly associated with feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and social isolation. The study also discussed how this affects people’s ability to lead healthy lives.
Dental phobia and anxiety prevent people from going to the dentist regularly, which considerably worsens their pre-existing health problems and converts them into debilitating diseases. They frequently neglect preventive care, initial diagnosis, and care, which results in a worsening prognosis, significant corrective therapy, frequent emergency dental care, and a lengthy dental expenses bill—all of which are overwhelming. It starts a vicious loop.
What Causes Dental Anxiety and Phobia?
Dental anxiety and phobia affect individuals of all ages and can often have no definitive cause. But in certain cases, a former poor dental experience has been associated with dental anxiety and phobia later on in life. The dread of needles, choking, gagging, anaesthesia, discomfort, embarrassment, losing control, and invasion of personal space are a few examples of circumstances when anxiety is specifically tied to one part of dental treatment. In other cases, it may result from pre-existing disorders or mental health concerns, such as generalised anxiety disorder.
How To Know If You Have It?
People who experience dental anxiety typically perspire, experience a pounding heart, have high or low blood pressure and may experience fainting, display evident anguish, weep or show other signs of panic, disengage, or use amusement or anger to disguise their worry.
Some anxious individuals may regularly skip or avoid dental appointments and may find it challenging to receive dental treatment, whether it is straightforward or complicated.
On the other side, the phobia can cause symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep the night before a dental appointment, panic or anxiety attacks at hearing the word “dental visit,” illogical behaviour, and somatic symptoms.
Managing Your Dental Anxiety and Phobias
It is imperative to manage your symptoms so you can seek regular therapy for your dental concerns and nip the problem in the bud rather than leading to extensive treatment and lengthy bills. Keeping in mind the devastating effects of dental phobias on your oral health and overall health-related quality of life, it is imperative to do so.
Share Your Concerns With The Dentist
Your doctor should be informed of your feelings of anxiety and apprehension so that they can tailor your treatment and establish particular measures in place that will help you relieve your anxieties. This can only happen if you understand and recognize your fears.
To allay patients’ fears of the unknown, the dentist, for instance, frequently describes each step and instrument used throughout the dental procedure. If you’re afraid of needles, the dentist may be able to administer the medication or numbing agent via a different mechanism. For the patient’s relaxation and distraction, dentists frequently also play soothing background music.
Anxiety-Relieving Meditation and Exercises
Performing breathing exercises and muscle relaxation tactics can significantly aid in managing your dental anxiety and phobia, as they can put you in a calm state of mind.
Do What Works For You
The majority of the time, minor dental anxiety may be controlled by taking a friend with you to the office on the day of your consultation or by giving yourself positive reinforcement by rewarding yourself when the appointment is over.
Oral Anti-Anxiety Medications
After speaking with your primary care physician, your dentist may also recommend a quick-acting anti-anxiety drug if you have mild dental anxiety in order to guarantee that your appointment goes smoothly and productively.
When none of the aforementioned methods is successful, your only choice is to consider conscious sedation or, in the case of a prolonged treatment period, general anaesthesia to make sure the patient receives dental treatment without adverse events.
The internationally accredited dental specialists at WeCure have been trained in dealing with anxious patients to alleviate all their concerns and worries for a smooth and successful dental consultation and treatment.