Many people are scared of dentists as kids but eventually get over it when they grow older. Feeling uneasy about an upcoming dental procedure, even as adults, is understandable as they're not the most pleasant or comfortable of experiences, to begin with. For people with dental phobia, however, it’s an entirely different story. The mere thought undergoing professional dental cleaning or visiting a cosmetic dentist can cause extreme reactions such as nausea and panic attacks.
Causes Of Dental Phobia And Anxiety
As not all dental fears are irrational, it may be difficult to diagnose a phobia; but awareness of its potential causes may help with detection.
The common reasons why people develop dental phobia include:
- Fear of pain
Pain is the primary reason why people avoid the dentist. This fear usually stems from an unpleasant dental experience from childhood or even from the terrifying dental stories relayed by other people.
- Fear of needles and injection
Many people are afraid of having needles touch their skin. Imagine the horror they would feel when it’s inserted into their mouth?
- Fear of anesthesia
Still, there are those whose anxieties are caused by a lack of trust in anesthetics or apprehensive of their possible side effects like nausea, dizziness, and weakness.
- Fear of feeling helpless
It’s easy to feel helpless when sitting on a dental chair. You can’t do anything and, most of the time, you don’t know what’s going on. For some people, not being in control of the situation causes them severe discomfort, consequently leading to dental phobia.
Signs And Symptoms Of Dental Phobia
It's crucial to recognize dental phobia as early as possible to prevent its adverse effects on dental and physical health.
For one, those with dental phobia avoid dentists like the plague, sometimes even under excruciating pain. The thing is, detecting dental phobia by this particular symptom alone can be tricky as there are people who hide their pain well. That said, here are other tell-tale signs of dental anxiety:
- Having trouble sleeping before a dental visit
- Becoming restless while waiting for their turn at the dentist’s office
- Crying or feeling physically ill at the thought of a looming dental appointment
- Shortness of breath or getting extremely uneasy when the dentist examines or inserts objects into their mouth
Consequences Of Dental Phobia
Whichever way you look at it, avoiding dental appointments and professional dental care will take a toll on your teeth. While brushing and flossing your teeth several times a day, using natural oral care products, and avoiding food and habits detrimental to dental health help in keeping your mouth healthy, there are times when they won't be enough. At one point or another, you'll need the equipment and expertise of dental professionals to identify problems and clean in places that your toothbrush can't.
Dental phobia is likely to have adverse effects on your dental health, including:
- Tooth loss
Nobody wants cavities, but with the kind of lifestyle that people lead nowadays, they're unavoidable. Cavities lead to tooth decay. And tooth decay, when left untreated gets worse and worse - you may end up losing a tooth or several.
- Gum disease
It takes a professional to thoroughly clean the hard-to-get spaces between your teeth and around the gumline. These crevices are prone to plaque build-up, which does not only cause tooth decay but bad breath and gum diseases as well. Since gum disease is hard to detect, people usually don’t discover the problem until it’s late.
An alarming effect of gum disease in its advanced stages is receding gums, which exposes the tooth’s roots and make them vulnerable to decay.
- Problems to general health
Aside from bad breath and cosmetic issues due to tooth decay and gum diseases, the more troubling effects of dental phobia endanger overall health and well-being. For one, the tooth decay can lead to infection – and from what we know about infection, just because it started in your mouth does not mean it will stay there. The infection can spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream and cause serious health risks.
Coping With Dental Phobia
The symptoms of dental phobia are enough to put anybody in distress, but just as disconcerting is its effect on a person's self-esteem. Those who suffer from the condition, however, should know that there is always hope. Advancements in the field of dentistry have made dental procedures generally pain-free. In addition, those whose teeth have been severely damaged can turn to cosmetic dentistry for solutions.
People who have suffered from dental phobia and anxiety in the past reported that working with a compassionate dentist made a world of difference. Thus, the key to coping with dental phobia is to be open about it. Discuss your concerns with your dentists. Once your dental health care professional understands your fears and where they come from, he or she will be able to come up with better approaches on how to make you feel more at ease.
About The Author
Amanda McIntyre is a content marketing strategist for Dental Studio 101, a Scottsdale cosmetic dentistry clinic that specializes in providing anxiety-free dental services, including dental implants and porcelain veneers. She enjoys reading books and being around family and friends.