Afraid Of The Dentist? Fear Can Be Costly.

Posted on Feb 25, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

It is estimated that nearly 75% of American adults have some level of anxiety or fear when it comes to going to the dentist. Much of this stems from traumatic experiences in younger years, yet many individuals cannot explain when it actually began or what prompted it.

When you think about it, feeling uneasy in a dental chair is not such a puzzle. You’re on your back, positioned on a fairly flat, narrow base while hemmed in by arm rests on each side. You have someone hovering over your open mouth with unfamiliar instruments and you have no idea what they’re going to do with them or what you’ll feel. Recipe for anxiety? Well, duh!

Basically, the difference between those who have dental fears and those who don’t is (from what I see) the relationship of trust I have with my patients. They know I truly have no intention to hurt them. Quite frankly, my goal is to make sure they are always comfortable. Because they believe I have this intention and I will do everything to ensure their comfort, they are able to relax or to communicate with me when they feel it’s necessary.

For those who have fears, however, it’s not that simple. Some of these patients shake or start to sweat even when they walk in our front door. I’ve had some cry (men and women) in the dental chair before they’ve been touched. For these individuals, their fear is an uncontrollable reaction to perceived pain – nothing they feel, but pain they anticipate.

Here’s the bigger problem: When dental care is delayed or avoided due to fear, small problems that could have been prevented (or dealt with simply) become big problems. Big problems require more extensive procedures, more expense and more time in treatment. The longer a fearful patient has to be in a dental chair for a procedure, the more anxious they are.

Too, when regular dental check-ups and cleanings are avoided, the buildup of bacteria that daily brushing and flossing doesn’t remove turns into calculus. This hardened form of oral bacteria attacks tooth enamel and gum tissues. This is also what develops into periodontal disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is a massive accumulation of bacteria that damages gums and bone structures far beneath the gum line. Therefore, in order to treat gum disease, the procedure requires the gums be opened in order to reach the full extent of the bacteria. All of this is far more involved than what could have been prevented through 6-month dental check-ups.

I see a number of patients who have acquired gum disease because they were too afraid to go to the dentist. Yet, when gum disease symptoms become severe, they are forced to set these fears aside in order to get out of pain and/or save as many teeth as possible.

So, how does a fearful patient deal with dental fears and have the care they need? There is nothing like opening up and sharing your concerns. Begin with an open and honest conversation. We provide a consultation room that is away from the clinical side of the practice. We’ll sit in arm chairs and discuss your past experiences and what makes you feel uneasy and what we can provide to help you relax.

In our office, we offer relaxation medications in addition to comfort options. Yet, our patients find that trust is the key to their ability to have the treatment they need without pangs of fear.

Begin with a consultation appointment. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule. Remember, more delay can mean more treatment, more expense and more time. Focus on achieving MORE smiles without dental fear dictating your decisions.

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