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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.
There 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.
In 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.
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