Dental Fear? Dental Phobia? You’re Not Alone.

Posted on Nov 10, 2014 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Although an estimated 75% of American adults have some level of dental anxiety, approximately 10% of the adult population are categorized as dental phobics. These are people who have such severe fears that the mere thoughts of going to the dentist is unnerving. Many dental phobics can’t even bring themselves to call a dental office without breaking into a sweat or even crying.

Most dental fears stem from a past traumatic experience in the dental chair, often as a child. These memories become so ingrained that anything associated with dental visits recreates the trauma in their minds.

Today, many dentists are especially sensitive to individuals who have dental fear and phobia. However, before they can help them enjoy a healthy smile, it is necessary to get them into their office in the first place. As a Periodontist, I am concerned that the high number of adults with some level of gum disease is about the same percentage of those with dental phobia, fear or anxiety.

If you have dental fear or phobia, here are a few suggestions that may help you take that first step…

• If you cannot make the call yourself, have a close friend or family member call several dental offices and ask questions (Is the dentist trained and experienced in treating fearful patients? What comfort options are available? Do they offer a consultation so fearful patients can get to know the dentist before scheduling an appointment? Etc.)
• Consider visiting your chosen dental office after hours. Walk to the front door and become familiar with the office’s location and its appearance.
• When a dentist does not have a consultation room that is removed from the clinical section of the office, certain noises and smells can create discomfort for fearful patients. If the consultation must take place in a treatment suite, it may be best to look for another office.
• Most dentists experienced with fearful patients understand their need to share their concerns. They will listen without rushing the patient and answer their questions using easy-to-understand terms. The individual should leave feeling reassured about the dentist’s commitment to their comfort.
• Many offices offer Oral Sedation, which is in pill form and taken prior to the visit. This helps the patient to be in a relaxed state by the time they arrive at the office. For those who prefer a ‘twilight sleep’ state, ask if I.V. Sedation is available.
• When sedation is used, ask about safety monitoring equipment and training of staff members who will be assisting the dentist. Your safety is as important as your comfort.

Taking small steps at a comfortable pace is typically how most patients conquer dental fears and phobia. Some people will never be able to have dental care without anxiety, but in the proper hands, can accomplish the treatment necessary for a healthy mouth and confident smile.

If you have not seen a dentist in years and have gums that are tender, swollen in spots or bleed when you brush, you have gum disease. This is the leading cause of adult tooth loss and will only worsen without treatment. Additionally, the bacteria of gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, perterm babies and more.

The sooner you receive treatment, the less involved it will be. And, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy a terrific smile. Call (828) 274-9440 to arrange a consultation. A pleasant conversation in our private consultation room may be your first step to optimal oral health.

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