What is dental anxiety and phobia? | Dental Treatment Guide

Dental anxiety is rather common among the population of the world. The level of anxiety can range from mild to an extreme phobia. Some people have such a fear of dentists that they avoid dental appointments at all costs. Alternatively, they may just be scared of one or a number of particular treatments. If someone has a complete, true phobia of the dentists, even the thought of visiting one installs a great amount of fear. This is significantly less common than general dental anxiety.

A phobia of visiting a dentist can affect both males and females of any age. Although, it has been noted that dental phobia is more prevalent in young women who are between 18 and 35 years old. Dental anxiety is much more common and is a big excuse for people avoiding the dentist. In the UK, half of the population will only see their dentist is they actually feel pain and the majority of these dentist avoiders do so because they are too scared or anxious to go.

What is the difference between dental anxiety and dental phobia?

Many people seem to believe that dental anxiety and dental phobia are the same thing, however, this is not so. Those who suffer from dental anxiety do sometimes visit the dentist, however, this is done with a certain amount of unease and fear. Sufferers of dental anxiety often worry to an exaggerated extent about what may happen in the dentist's clinic.

Those who have a phobia of the dentist have a much more severe fear. The phobia can cause the patient to become terrified or even suffer a panic attack. This often causes the person to avoid going to the dentist at all costs. This can cause significant problems in terms of their dental health. People who do not attend regular dental appointments leave their mouth a lot more vulnerable to problems such as gum disease and tooth decay.

The results of dental phobia can cause severe emotional distress. The implications of poor dental health care due to the mental inability to attend dental appointments can heighten self-consciousness. If teeth become discoloured or lost then it often causes the person to become a lot more aware of when they show their teeth. This can limit the amount of smiling done and can cause social retraction due to paranoia or embarrassment.

Causes and prevention of dental anxiety and phobia

Many people who suffer from dental anxiety also show a number of psychosocial factors. A common cause of dental anxiety is the memory of a past, unpleasant experience that occurred in a dental environment.

Another potential causation of dental anxiety and phobia is abuse at a young age. This abuse can be physical, mental, and emotional or may be in the form of neglect. This seems more of a prevalent cause in women than men. This abuse and neglect in the past can be justified as a causative factor due to a lack of ability to trust someone or if the individual is frightened of not being in control.

A more common cause behind dental fear is general worry. Many people overthink their treatment and become scared that something unpleasant may occur or their procedure could go wrong. This seems to be rather common in younger patients such as children who hear horror stories from friends about the dentist or who went to an appointment with a parent who was undergoing a somewhat intense or unpleasant appearing procedure.

Signs of dental phobia

Dental phobia is an extreme fear of the dentist and can result in the sufferers finding themselves unable to bring themselves to attend appointments. These people may make up for the lack of professional dental treatments by performing treatment on their own teeth.

Another sign of dental phobia is that the person will alter their route of travel significantly just to avoid being near to a dental clinic. Another symptom of the fear is that the sufferer will not talk about dental related subjects or may have to leave a room if the subject comes up in conversation or on a television show.

Some people who have a phobic of the dentist will feel sick when the subject of the dentists is brought up. They may also sweat more and a higher rate of heartbeat and breathing might be observed. The person may even faint in more serious cases.

There is a short list below that may be useful for you to read if you feel that you may suffer from a phobia of the dentists. Key symptoms of dental phobia include:

  • A lack of ability to sleep on the nights running up to your dental appointments.
  • A nervous feeling when travelling to or sitting in the dental clinic prior to your appointment.
  • The feeling that you want to burst into tears when the time that your visit approaches.
  • Heightened levels of anxiety at the sight of the dentist's equipment or at dental staff.
  • Feeling ill even just at the though of the dentist visit.
  • A panicking feeling or difficulty breathing when the dentist starts putting things into your mouth.

Treatment of dental anxiety and phobia

It is possible to be treated for dental phobia. To obtain such treatments, you should approach your dentist with your concerns. If the thought of this scares you, you may try talking to your doctor or perhaps even a psychologist. By talking your worries over with a professional, you may be referred to an anxiety management clinic that specialised in dental fear. Such clinics are often contained within dental hospitals. Usually, this help is successful but it all depends on the level of anxiety felt surrounding the dentist and dental procedures. Some people can overcome their fear by simply talking over their fears and concerns with the dentist.