Dental phobia is basically an extreme fear of dentistry. For a
person with dental phobia, even the slightest mention of certain words can bring
on that gut-wrenching feeling of terror.
A phobia is usually an extreme fear of
something that is unfounded or irrational.
But for someone with dental phobia, it is very real. They don't care why they
have it, they just know that they
hate going to the dentist.
But it gets worse; because of this extreme fear, they avoid visiting
a dentist for any treatment unless they have a severe problem. Then we
have two problems:
First, they are turning up at the dentist's office
in extreme pain, and so learn to associate pain with the dentist's
And second, because they only see a dentist rarely, their teeth are usually in a poor state, and they are very embarrassed about this. This increases their fear.
It's a vicious circle. One that is very hard to break out of,
because most people with dental phobia don't WANT to be able to see a
dentist. It's a bit like having a fear of heights, or of spiders.
The fear of heights or spiders (or just about anything else) can be
easily cured these days, but only if the person involved REALLY WANTS
to overcome the fear for some reason,
i.e.. learning to skydive, or wanting to live in a hot country that has
However, most dental phobics DON'T WANT to get better, because they can't imagine ever being free of their phobia. To them, it just doesn't seem possible, and many are suspicious of any attempts to help them.
BUT THERE IS ONE COMMON BELIEF that most dental phobics have, which is untrue, and which BLOCKS their chances of overcoming their phobia. What is it?
MOST DENTAL PHOBICS BELIEVE THAT ALL DENTISTS ARE THE SAME, AND THAT
ALL DENTISTS HAVE TO PERFORM DENTAL TREATMENT THE SAME WAY.
NOT TRUE !
There are many different ways to carry out most dental procedures, and of course there are many different types of dentist - we are all human, and have personalities from all reaches of humanity!
SO, imagine a dentist who behaves like a favorite uncle, or a best
friend. They DO exist - you have to find someone who has a personality
similar to yourself, and the only way to do that is to ask around your
circle of friends and family!
There are several options to help with dental phobia.
Which option will work best depends on the individual person, and
a combination of options listed below will work even better.
THE VERY BEST TOTAL SOLUTION COULD BE DENTAL
But first, let's take a look at a few specific things that people might have a phobia about;
SO, what are the options to help?
As always, prevention is better than cure. And most phobias start from a childhood experience. So it's a bit late to do anything with regard to prevention if you already have the phobia! But take a look at KIDS FIRST DENTIST VISIT if you'd like to help your own kids avoid a dental phobia.
NEXT - you have to find a dentist who understands dental phobias and is sympathetic, AND who has the training and equipment to help you.
Here are a few pointers that you may notice if you can find someone like this;
His dental office will be a little different from a standard dental office.
Remember, you are the patient, you are in control, and that first visit is just to have a look, have a talk, and find out what you need and what what can be done. NO TREATMENT on the first visit!
Sounding good so far? There's more detail on these specific issues below, but first of all let's get back to dealing with the whole issue of dental phobia head-on!
What if you didn't need to worry about the individual specific things that trigger your phobia?
How can you achieve this?
I think one of the BEST ways to treat dental phobia is by hypnosis. And you can start it BEFORE you ever go to the dental office. The biggest problem with hypnosis is the image it has - it is widely mis-understood.
I strongly recommend this option, because it is drug-free, quick, effective and puts YOU in control. To find out how this works, and whether YOU might be suitable, please go to my DENTAL HYPNOSIS page. I promise, you'll find out some amazing things!
Assuming that you just want to find out about the specific issues triggering your phobia, and how to deal with those (rather than using hypnosis), let's take a closer look.
are in a situation of having some knowledge about what's going on, and
making the decisions about what you want to have done (if anything!).
Of course, this gives them complete control to interrupt the treatment at any second.
I think this type of system is rare in most dental offices for two reasons; one is that using all the other techniques is enough for 99% of patients, and the the other reason is that most dentists would not want to hand over so much control to the patient!
Looking at the last two common causes for anxiety in the dental office, the smells and noises are something that most modern dental offices do not have.
If you go into a new dental office for the first time, and you can smell that "dentist" smell, or you can hear treatment going on somewhere, just turnaround and walk out. Find another office. Period.
The last problem, that of feeling vibration or scraping, is difficult to eliminate completely. People continually ask me about dental lasers, having heard that they are free of vibration. That point is true, but dental lasers are very limited in what they can do in dentistry. They work well for some types of surgery, and in a few types of new cavity, but they cannot remove old fillings nor tooth enamel, which is pretty much 95% of what dental air turbines ("drill") are used for . So, unfortunately, dental lasers are not yet a realistic alternative.
So we have looked at what specific things in the dental office might trigger a phobic reaction, and I have explained a few options to help deal specifically with these issues.
BUT what if you have an urgent problem that needs attention quickly? What if you have a tooth that needs to get pulled? (More information on this at GETTING A TOOTH PULLED)
There are other options for those of you that want to just get straight into dealing with a specific dental problem or specific tooth. What we are talking about is some sort of sedation.
BUT there are several levels of sedation.
The most common medications are diazepam (Valium) and temazepam. Lorazepam is also sometimes used. BUT it's important to realise that these meds will NOT knock you out. You will actually feel pretty normal after you have taken them, and some patients tell me that they feel as if the meds haven't had much effect.
BUT they are actually way more relaxed, and less concerned about dental treatment. One thing to remember is that these meds slow down your reactions significantly, and so you will need someone to drive you to the dental office and home again afterwards. You shouldn't operate any dangerous machinery (including driving a car!) for 24 hours.
You can have the shot "topped up" a little if you feel you are coming round a bit before treatment is complete. Again, you will need someone to drive you home, as you will feel quite woozy for the rest of the day. Most people just go home and sleep it off until evening.
With intra-venous sedation, you normally remember very little about the treatment, even though you are actually conscious the whole time.
This type of sedation is used for children as well, as it is very safe. You tend to drift off and have a bit of a day-dream during treatment, and the effects wear off much quicker than oral or intra-venous sedation.
Few dental offices will offer this service for routine dental treatment because it carries a slightly higher risk of complications than sedation, and also it’s more expensive as you need a fully qualified anesthesioligist (“Anaesthetist” in the U.K.) to give the aesthetic and monitor you throughout the entire procedure.
Dealing with a dental phobia is vey difficult, but there ARE ways of getting round it. Again, I urge you to take a look at my DENTAL HYPNOSIS page. I believe that this option is way out in first place as the best solution. In second place is daylight.
Dental hypnosis is relatively inexpensive, easy to get, and can deal with ALL the things that may trigger your dental phobia.
The other options I have written about can also be helpful in certain situations, especially when you need some urgent attention. I wish you Good Luck in getting rid of your dental phobia!