Dental Phobia & How to Combat 

For many patients, a bi-annual visit to the dentist is just another health care visit to check off the list. For others, visiting the dentist brings up a phobia so strong that avoiding the dentist even when dental work is immediately needed is the usual course of action. Dental phobia is a real problem for some patients and can cause small dental issues to be put off until they become emergencies. Modern dentistry allows patients with dental fear to elect the option of using sedation dentistry to relax during treatment and get the dental work needed to keep the gums and teeth healthy. 


What Is Dental Phobia? 

Dental fear is not uncommon. For some individuals, this fear presents as nervousness before an appointment and worry that something will go wrong during a procedure. For others, this fear goes beyond a normal amount of anxiety and crosses over into the phobia territory. A phobia is much more severe than anxiety and can cause the patient to panic and become terrified at the idea of a dental visit. Patients with a dental phobia can sometimes attend an appointment and become panic-stricken in the middle, potentially causing harm or damage. Although a patient with a phobia may be aware that the panic is not rational, this does not stop the symptoms of a panic attack once it starts. 


What Causes a Dental Phobia? 

Although some patients have had negative past experiences, especially in childhood, most have never had a traumatic dental-related event. A phobia of dental visits stems from the patient’s fears of both specific dental experiences and of things that are associated with the dentist’s office.


  • Anesthesia. Some individuals dislike the feeling of being under anesthesia or fear it will not work properly and the procedure will be painful. 
  • Needles. The fear of needles causes anxiety in both the dental office and medical settings. 
  • Pain. Patients are often afraid a procedure will be painful, even if the visit is only for a cleaning or other simple issue. 
  • Sounds and smells. Some people associate the sound of a drill or the smell of a dentist’s office with negative experiences, triggering a fearful response. 
  • Control loss. For patients who feel confined to the chair, a dental visit can bring of feelings of lost control or being trapped, making it difficult to breathe or causes a fight-or-flight response. 
  • Personal space. Some patients are embarrassed by potential odors or have trouble allowing others into such close proximity. 


How Can Patients Ease Dental Fears? 

The first step toward easing dental anxiety is to be upfront and honest with the dentist about your struggles and fears. Identifying the fear helps the dentist make decisions that may help you feel more comfortable during your appointment. If your anxiety stems from the loss of control or lack of personal space, concessions can be made to make sure each part of the process is explained thoroughly before it happens so you will be prepared. The dentist can also establish a sound or hand signal you can give if you are feeling panic rising, need a moment to catch your breath, or feel like your personal space is becoming too crowded. 

Patients who have more severe dental phobia may also benefit from the use of sedation dentistry, especially during procedures that are more complicated than routine cleaning. Although modern dental procedures are less invasive and less painful than those of the past, some patients still have lingering fears that cannot be overcome through rationalization. These patients make good candidates for sedation dentistry. 


What Is Sedation Dentistry? 

Sedation dentistry refers to the use of medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. The type of medication and amount of sedation depends on the severity of the patient’s dental fears and the complexity of the procedure being performed. Usually, patients receive the lowest level of sedation needed to stay comfortable and relaxed and no more. 


  • Low level of sedation. Patients needing a low level of sedation receive minimal medication and remain completely awake and aware of the procedure, though relaxed.  
  • Moderate level of sedation. A moderate amount of sedation is often referred to as conscious sedation. Patients in this category are still awake but later may not remember parts or most of the procedure. If the dentist asks a patient who is consciously sedated questions, the response may be slightly confused or slurred. 
  • High level of sedation. Patients who are highly sedated are still conscious but on the brink of unconsciousness. Patients can still be easily awakened if necessary. 
  • Complete sedation. Patients using this type of sedation are under general anesthesia and completely unconscious. 


Schedule an Appointment

If you have a dental issue and have been avoiding the dentist due to your dental phobia, it’s time to contact your dentist and ask about your options for sedation dentistry. Putting off your visit can make your dental problems worsen and require more complex dental work in the future. If you have any questions about how you can ease your dental fears, contact Ingenious Dentistry to schedule a consultation. You can also call (713) 795-5905 for more information. 


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