Fear of the dentist: Can it be overcome?

Posted by: Charlie Burrows

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Roughly 1 in every 10 adults in the UK suffer from serious fear of the dentist and this figure could potentially rise if the public don’t understand enough about the treatments they receive or the processes involved. As with anything unknown in life, the more we understand about something, the less we fear it and this is definitely the case with the dentist. There has always been a widespread fear, on some level, in the social consciousness with trips to the dentist and in some cases, this is because of a fear of needles. However, most of the time, it’s actually an irrational fear which could be contained by educating patients to a level where they understand what the treatment involves.

 

Individual Fears

Everyone is afraid of something and visits to the dentist can create anxiety in many, which is hard to overcome. The issue may not be specifically to do with needles, there may be numerous other elements which attribute to this fear.

There are instances where some patients have had perhaps bad previous experiences or maybe who just do not like appointments related to medical situations and this can be brought on by any number of past experiences.

Just some of the general fears experienced by people can be related to:

  • Phobia of needles
  • Bad childhood memories
  • Fear of discovering more complications with dental health
  • Unknown details of the treatment
  • Past experiences related to medical scenarios

 

So what can be done?

One of those fears at least can be alleviated somewhat by educating patients on the treatment they will receive beforehand and explaining what exactly will happen. Generally, a specialist or hygienist should detail the process and what they can expect with the treatment. This helps to clarify each stage of the procedure and lifts some of the myth and “secrecy” around what the dentist will be doing whilst treating the patient.

A patient is at their most vulnerable when laying in a dentist chair with their mouth open, whilst exposing their teeth to treatment and so it’s always advisable for dentists to explain to the patient exactly what they can expect.

We recommend that if you as a patient are nervous, you should always let your dentist know you are anxious and they will look at the best way to go about treatment – there may be an alternative solution. We have experienced many patients with anxiety and concern over dental treatment but we have measures in place to discuss and alleviate many of those concerns prior to treatment. These can include creating tasks which they can play out in their mind whilst receiving treatment, so as to focus on something else. We also provide anaesthetic gel where applicable, to help reduce any discomfort during the treatment.

As dental experts, the technology is at a point now where there is always something we can do to help make our patients feel more comfortable and this is something we take seriously in every case and we believe that our industry has a responsibility to make the experience as stress-free as possible for everyone.

 

The negative impact of fear

The one resulting danger of such a large section of society fearing the dentist is that they will put off going to regular check ups and avoid appointments at all costs. This would not only result in immediate issues when considering required treatment for perhaps a filling, or simple cleaning treatment but it also could have potentially a much larger impact on those patient’s future dental health.

Cavities, gum disease and other negative dental conditions could arise due to patients ignoring their dental problems because of their fear of the dentists. Regular yearly or six-monthly checks are recommended to ensure your teeth are maintained and kept in reasonable condition but by willingly avoiding the dentist and missing appointments for check-ups and cleaning sessions, problems can go unchecked and cause many issues which would then require much more involved and complicated treatment.

As a society we will never remove the fear surrounding dentist appointments for those that suffer from anxiety or who just have a disposition toward the dentist. However, as dentists and experts in this field and as an industry, we feel it’s vital that we offer something toward a solution to help those suffering and provide as much information as we can to patients, as well as to give them some relief and a better chance at keeping their dental health in check.