For people who have a fear of heights, it is difficult for those who don’t to understand the emotions that high places can trigger. Or, for people who are afraid of dogs, it can be a rather puzzling problem for those who us who think of our dogs as family.
Fear of going to a dentist is another fear that some individuals have and others do not. And, dental fear is more common than not, with an estimated 75% of American adults having some level of fear or anxiety associated with dentistry.
While people who are fearful of dogs can avoid them much of the time, people who have dental fear pay a high price for avoiding dental care. This ‘high price’ comes in the form of compromised oral health and the need for more-complex treatment that may have been prevented in the first place.
As a dentist for nearly 25 years, I’ve seen a great many patients who have acquired gum disease or lost teeth due to dental fear’s grip. Many endure pain for weeks to avoid having treatment. Yet, no problem in the mouth that causes pain is going to repair on its own.
For most, their fears began with a traumatic experience in a dental chair many years prior. One patient shared that she was crying in the dental chair, being 3 or 4 years old. The dentist told her if she didn’t stop, he’d get a big dog he had in the back to come and eat her. This woman carried her fear in that moment with her into adulthood, and no wonder! But, I’ve heard patients recant some pretty awful experiences and they’re all bad. Even when the patient can’t recall exactly when their fears began or why they emerged, I can ‘feel’ their sense of trauma.
What I have learned in my Shelby Twp dental office is that perceived pain can be just as real as actual pain. When someone has been hurt during dental care and the patient felt helpless to halt the pain, it’s logical that they may anticipate similar sensations during subsequent care
Until the patient develops a sense of trust with their caregiver, they tend to anticipate the worst.
It’s normal that even patients with no fears of dental visits can feel anxious at times. Being positioned on your back on a narrow surface can make anyone feel vulnerable. Added to that? The mouth’s interior is a sensitive area. When you open your mouth for another person to prod around using pointed instruments without knowing what they’re doing, even relaxed patients know there is the potential for an even-slight jab or prick.
I liken this to when I was learning to drive. My Mother would be in the front seat beside me and, with every brake light that lit up in front of our car, she would stomp her right foot onto the floor as if she had her own brake pedal! But, I get it. She didn’t KNOW I, too, was seeing the brake lights and was at-the-ready.
I am very proud of the relationship of trust I have with our patients. They know my goal is to NEVER cause them discomfort. Although we cannot always guarantee they’ll have no discomfort at all, my staff and I take extra steps to provide optimal comfort at every visit. This is why we offer oral sedation and I.V. sedation (also referred to as “twilight sleep“) for patients who desire added relaxation throughout their visit.
When it comes to dental problems, the snowball effect begins when patients cannot bring themselves to come into a dental office for care. For those who have fears, just the thoughts of walking in the front door can conjure up uncontrollable reactions. Some patients shake, break out in a sweat, and even cry (both men and women).
When dental care is delayed or avoided due to fear, small problems that could have been prevented (or easily resolved) become big problems. Big problems require more extensive procedures, more expense and more time in treatment. When dental needs become more significant, fearful patients are actually adding to their reasons to dread the dentist.
Too, when regular dental check-ups and cleanings are avoided, the result can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Periodontal disease occurs when an over-accumulation of oral bacteria become infectious. As it penetrates gum tissues, it also attacks the bone structures underneath the gums. This disease requires treatment that is more extensive. Additionally, tooth loss can create an entirely new set of procedural needs and costs.
If you have dental fears, how do you have the care you need when just walking into a dentist’s office is unnerving?
We begin with a no-charge, private session in a comfy room that is removed from the clinical side of the office. During this time, we’ll sit together in arm chairs and have an open and relaxed conversation. I’ll listen to your concerns and answer your questions and explain comfort options that should work best for your needs.
Although we offer relaxation medications in addition to a gentle touch (true for our entire team), our patients find that trust is the key to their ability to have the treatment they need. Let us help you overcome your fears or anxiety so you can enjoy the healthy, confident smile you desire.
Remember, delay can result in more treatment, more expense and more time. Call 586-739-2155 or tap here to arrange a no-charge visit soon. Also, you may want to download our “Guide For The Fearful Dental Patient.” Too, a brief video tour of our office is available at: https://www.banrbarbatdds.com/videos/#video-tour