Dental phobia is simply such a severe fear of dentistry that it results in avoidance of receiving treatment. Even hearing the word, seeing dental images or hearing dental ‘sounds’ will result in high levels of anxiety and panic.
In the U.K., over half the population have a significant fear of attending a dentist and in one in six it is so terrifying that it prevents attending until driven by pain or disease.
It is often imagined that this is always due to fear that the treatment may be painful. This is sometimes true but certainly not always. There are often specific issues involved and many different presentations. Guilt and shame rank highly in reasons I’ve been given for non-attendance – never justified. The fear is often completely understandable when the full picture is known
Treating dental phobia first ignited my interest in treating all phobias. I successfully treat the most extreme presentations and am a National winner for the treatment of Dental Phobia.
My consulting room is totally NOT clinical and I work in association with my colleague Dr Donald Sloss in helping to make treatment possible for those who never thought it was not.
Main Presenting Categories
Fear – of pain or a specific procedure or no known aspect.
The most common presentation. Usually associated with actually receiving painful or upsetting treatment. This however may have been in childhood or very many years previously.
Techniques and attitudes have changed enormously in that time but so intense is the fear that it becomes impossible to attend (except in emergencies). Consequently there is no new learning experience.
As the dental condition deteriorates, so feeling guilty or ashamed rises in importance and becomes another factor in avoiding treatment. The dental issue affects many areas of life and social situations and affects confidence.
Frequently the sufferer does not know how or when the problem began. The sight or sound of anything dentally-related even on television will set off a panic response. Similarly, certain smells have the same effect. Interestingly, the symptoms many describe are co-incident with those found in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-5)
Fear of Injections/ blood. Another common focus sometimes associated with a known event, which may or not be dentally related. The body response causes a swift reduction in blood pressure and leads to dizziness, over-breathing, and possible fainting. The person may mistakenly view this as ‘weakness’ instead of a natural reaction and again tries to avoid the situation.
Fear of ‘gagging’, retching or vomiting. Very many people cannot place anything, not even a finger into their mouth without retching or feeling nauseous. They fear or have experienced this and anticipate the same will occur in a dental setting. This can be overcome and certainly can be successfully managed.
Fears of loss of control or vulnerability often feature highly.