Dental phobia is an extreme fear and avoidance of situations which include dental care. This triggers an anxiety response similar to the fight-or-flight response. This can occur not only when directly facing a dental visit but also when the individual thinks about it. The most common cause of dental phobia is a past traumatic experience with a dentist. This can be surrounding physical pain which was inflicted but also due to psychological triggers such as the emotional pain created due to humiliation by the dentist. This can also lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Another possible cause of dental phobia is a history of abuse. This form of phobia can lead to health issues, such as gum disease and in turn low self-esteem.
With dental phobia, the individual can gradually take small steps to face the fear of dentists. It is important to have a caring and understanding dentist who will help in facing the fear. It is also helpful to have the support of family or friends when confronting the phobia. The small steps may include driving to the dentist’s office and facing the anxiety and then returning home. The next time may include going into the office and sitting down to get used to the environment. When the dental appointment is scheduled, the dentist can introduce the equipment which will be used and keep the line of communication open.
Communication is another key ingredient in overcoming dental phobia. The dentist needs to communicate with the individual about what will take place during the visit. The person also must be open and honest about specific triggers of your anxiety which may include certain equipment. During the visit, time can also be taken for the dentist to ask how things are going and if there are any needs which haven’t been addressed. This is because anxiety may be heightened if the individual feels out of control and unable to speak due to the dentist doing the work on the person without taking time to allow the person to voice any concerns.
Sedation may be used to help the person relax during the dental visit. Inhalation sedation is also known as laughing gas which is breathed in and relaxes the individual. Sedation can also be administered intravenously if extensive dental work is needed.
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