Nobody likes to go to the dentist, but most people go regularly because it is necessary to maintain good oral health and because it contributes significantly to maintaining general health and quality of life. However, there is a not small group of people who are unable to go to the dentist due to the fear that it causes. These people suffer from what is known as odontophobia, the irrational fear of going to a dental clinic, and it is estimated that 15% of the population suffers from it.
Not going to the dentist can never have dire consequences for health in the medium term, so overcoming odontophobia should be a priority for people who suffer from it. The General Council of Dentists offer some simple recommendations to overcome it.
What causes odontophobia?
Like most phobias, odontophobia is learned, that is, that It has arisen as a result of a bad experience, especially in childhood. If as a result of that experience, we avoid going to the dentist and distance visits to the dentist each time, this can trigger anxiety every time we have to face this situation and even a phobia, in which we experience such unpleasant sensations that we generate a avoidance, that is, such is anxiety or symptoms such as palpitations, tremors, sweating, etc. that we never go directly, we are incapable of going and we look for any excuse not to do so, even if we have unbearable pain.
There are many people for whom going to the dentist causes some concern, they get nervous, tense, fear pain … but they are able to go to the dentist, despite the discomfort it causes them. In this case, we could not speak of a phobia, but of a fear to a certain rational point, since we cannot forget that, although the interventions have improved a lot and are less and less annoying, the mouth is a very sensitive area and some dental procedures are still very invasive.
The problem comes when, despite needing it for health problems, aesthetics, etc. we are unable to cross the dentist’s door to undergo the treatments we need, which negatively affects our quality of life.
Symptoms of odontophobia
It is common for people who suffer from odontophobia to also fear other medical procedures, such as injections, tests, surgery, etc. In addition, stressing when they are having certain procedures can make them more sensitive to pain, which increases their fears even more. Therefore, it is common for them to become nervous even with the sounds of the clinics, the smells and even when they see a health professional dressed in the white coat. At times, the tension transforms into a hypersensitivity to the choking reflex, which makes interventions difficult or even impossible.
How to overcome odontophobia
For people with dental phobia to overcome their fear, the General Council of Dentists recommends following a series of simple guidelines, which consist of:
– Visit the clinic before the appointment for treatment so that the patient becomes familiar with the environment and can discuss their fears with the clinic staff. You have to choose a trusted, well-known, recommended clinic, etc. There are clinics, such as the BQDC that have protocols and support professionals for patients with odontophobia.
-Make an appointment first thing in the morning and not arriving before the appointment to avoid waiting and increase anxiety during that time.
– Start with simple and minimally invasive treatments, such as a review, x-ray … The most invasive should be left for future consultations.
– Agree with the dentist a signal to stop, like raising your hand. The moment the patient begins to feel anxiety, he will signal and the dentist will stop the treatment until the patient feels better.
– It is important have the dentist explain each step to the patient, how is the procedure, etc. so that the patient knows what is coming next, what is going to happen at all times and is calmer.
– Listen to soothing music, that the patient himself can wear and listen to before and during the procedure.
– controlled breathing -breath deeply and that each exhale lasts twice as long as the inhale – it can help you relax and ease tension.
In case of very pronounced phobias, you can always resort to the help of a psychology professional, who will recommend the calls progressive exposure therapiesa, first in imagination, watching videos about dentists … to continue with the live exhibition when the patient is ready.
While the phobia is overcome, if there are urgent procedures to be done, conscious sedation can be used, which consists of administering drugs, such as nitrous oxide, which reduces nervous tension while preserving the patient’s ability to respond to verbal stimuli from the dentist if required.