Fear of the dentist? Here’s a few tips

IMI Clinic

Being scared of the dentist (also known as dentophobia) is more common and widespread than one could imagine. Most people, in fact, often associate a dental check-up with a negative emotional or mnemonic stimulus, and therefore tend to develop a series of behaviours that are closely related to those of a panic attack.

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fear-of-the-dentist-tipsThere are several causes of dentophobia, but the most common ones include: physical and psychological traumas linked to past dental treatments, fear of the noise made by dentistry equipment, fear of blood, fear of needles, fear of feeling intense pain, and so on.

Generally, phobic patients that are terrorized by even just a simple dental check-up do not immediately show their anxious state, whether because they are embarrassed or because they cannot accept to be afraid of a visit.

The first signs of dental phobia are behaviors – even subconscious ones – that the patient has while lying on the dentist’s chair. Therefore, it may be useful for the dentist to evaluate: the potential stiffness of the patient in specific positions or postures, involuntary and nervous movements of hands and feet, as well as the constant request to wash their mouth or the need to swallow often. In particularly severe cases of patients with dentophobia, it is possible to witness cold sweat on their forehead, palpitations and panic attacks.

Moreover, it is not infrequent to see a dentophobic patient that tends to minimize their dental problem, making a quick fix by taking painkillers and antibiotics to postpone professional help as much as possible.

Delaying a dental treatment can lead to the rise of more severe pathologies, which usually require more invasive interventions and can bring to the concrete possibility of tooth loss, such as in the case of periodontal disease.

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fear-of-the-dentist-tips-imiIn order to reduce a patient’s phobia to a minimum, improving their psycho-emotional state when undergoing dental treatments, a dentist can carry out a series of maneuvers to improve the patient’s state of anxiety.

  1. Before beginning treatment, a dentist can combine normal, routine questions to understand the patient’s health state with questions aimed at pinpointing the potential presence of anxieties and dentophobia.
    Once the dentophobic patient is identified, it is important to carry out the environmental and behavioural alterations that can improve the patient’s state of anxiety.
  2. It is very important that the dentist is able to instil a relationship of trust with the phobic patient, in order to move beyond the first obstacle of getting to know each other.
  3. Even making the environment more relaxing, by playing with smells, colours and an efficient and clear coordination with the staff, can be of great importance.
  4. When the phobic patient lies on the dentist’s chair, the dentist can break the tension by speaking with a warm and welcoming tone, while maintaining a physical contact with the patient’s arm in order to provide some level of subconscious reassurance.
  5. Once this step is bypassed, the dentist must begin treatment by trying to reduce pain to a minimum, applying a delicate and functional therapy.
  6. The use of anxiolytics can be useful to improve visits with dentophobic patients.
  7. Finally, information concerning the dental treatment and a direct interaction with the patient can also reduce the anxiety tied to the unknown.

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