It is important to understand the difference between a phobia and a general dislike, though. General dislikes and anxiety do not lead to the overwhelming physical sensations that phobias do, and they do not have as strong of a mental trigger or response. A phobia, though, is generally rooted in the psyche and can be attributed to something from the past.
How Dentophobia Develops and Impacts Your Teeth
Dentophobia most often can be attributed to a previous traumatic event at the dentist. It can also come about indirectly, such as when a family member relays a negative experience, or when media illustrates dental offices as uncaring and procedures as extremely painful.
As a result, you enter a vicious cycle. Because of the fear, you’ll avoid going to the dentist for months or years, which will cause your dental health to deteriorate. You may not get necessary procedures and you could very well cause greater issues to come into fruition. After avoiding treatment, you’ll feel guilty or ashamed that you couldn’t go, which will then reinforce the refusal to make the trip. You won’t want to face your dentist, and now that the problems have progressed, you won’t want to go through the additional pain or extra procedures – not to mention the cost may increase over time the longer you delay treatment.
Thus, it is extremely important that you seek out help for your dentophobia before it’s too late and you indirectly cause irrevocable damage to your teeth and mouth.
Common Dentophobia Fears
Dentophobia can manifest in many ways. You might have a single fear or a number of fears; you may be easily overwhelmed by any of these symptoms. The important thing to remember is that phobias are often irrational, and you can overcome them with specific techniques. A few of the common fears associated with dentophobia include:
Pain: Dental pain can be excruciating if your dentist makes an error, such as not using enough lidocaine during a root canal or excessively scraping your gums during a cleaning. Individuals with extremely sensitive teeth may also be more scared of the possibility of pain.
Gagging and Choking: Some people are not comfortable with the idea of their mouths being blocked. They may get afraid of choking or gagging on anything that is inserted into their mouths, even if the instruments are secure. They may also be afraid of choking on small parts.
Numbness: For many, the fear of numbness is related to longevity. They do not like the loss of sensation, but they also don’t like to feel as if the numbness will last a long time.
Needles: Fear of needles is not uncommon and it is not specific to dentophobia. Dentists may need to use needles to administer anesthesia, though, or to inject antibiotics if there is an infection in the mouth or in a tooth.
Loss of control: Helplessness and loss of control is scary regardless, but for some, it can lead to crippling anxiety. In a dentist’s chair, patients have little to no control over what happens, and if they need to spit or swallow, cough or breathe, or do anything, they have to alert the dentist and the assistant.
Breathing troubles: Hyperventilating due to fear and anxiety is a sign of dentophobia. There’s generally no basis for this symptom, though, as the breathing pathways are not obstructed during dental work.
Signs of Dentophobia
If you find yourself physically struggling to enter a dentist’s office, or if you have a heavy sense of dread when imagining a dental procedure, you may have dentophobia. Some people become paralyzed from their fear and anxiety, or they outright run away, which can lead to numerous dental problems down the line. A few of the indicators that you’re having an attack stemming from dentophobia include:
Anxiety and racing thoughts
Increased heart rate
Nausea or vomiting
Sweating and overheating
Shortness of breath
Urge to flee
Irrational thoughts (“I am choking, I am unable to breathe, I am in danger”)
Dentophobia, like any phobia, can be alleviated by a number of techniques that can help patients control their fear and overcome it. It is best, however, to consult with a psychologist as well as a dentist to determine the best course of action. Always reach out to your dentist ahead of time to explain that you suffer from dentophobia and that you’d like to work together to deal with it. Some techniques that can help reduce the effects of dentophobia include:
Establish a signal with your dentist to pause when you’re feeling uncomfortable or panic-stricken
Request warnings before anything is carried out so you can mentally prepare
Practice breathing techniques and meditation to calm your body and mind
Use music therapy, a virtual reality system, a movie, or another form of media to distract yourself and occupy your mind during the visit
Other psychological techniques can also be used outside of the dental office. For example, overstimulation involves being presented with the stimulus that triggers anxiety in the hope that it will diminish the negative response.
In extreme cases, sedatives may be used, but general anesthesia can only be used in a hospital. Anxiety medication can be used, but side effects are always possible.
Don’t Fear the Dentist
Even though TMJ disorder can be painful and wreak havoc on your life, it’s still crucial that you get the help you need. Fearing the dentist will make it hard for you to overcome the daily pain and discomfort you feel. D. Eddie Siman is here to help ease you into treatment and make sure you are as comfortable as possible with every visit. Because of Dr. Siman’s holistic background, he knows how important it is for each and every patient to be relaxed and attentive to their own bodies. Contact us today if you’re in need of treatment for your TMJ disorder. We can help accommodate your dentophobia and make sure you get the relief you need.