I am a dentist and I wear it proudly on my sleeve! But the responses are plenty and varied with the people I meet and introduce myself to. And one thing I can say for sure, they’ve generally been negative!
I had this really sweet lady without a single mean bone in her body say, “It’s not you, Doc! It’s just what you do! I really do hate dentists!”
The other time I met this group of fine looking, educated and suave gentlemen, but once they got to know I was a dentist then there was no stopping them with all the funny dentist horror movies and jokes.
I could go on and on and now I laugh with people when they make funny dentist jokes. I’ve realised it’s not them but their genuine fear of the dentist, dental pain or dental phobia that’s setting off their reactions.
In the past few years of being a dentist, 18 to be precise, I’ve seen all kinds of people. The really compliant ones (yes they do exist J), the fearful ones,the ones who start off being really scared and then settle down beautifully for the rest of your life, the ones who make sure each appointment is like the first one in their life and traumatise themselves and the dentist and then we have the ones who never ever settle and need a little more help than just a good dentist.
They have a genuine problem and ever so often I have seen busy dentists getting all angry and riled up with a patient for wasting time. The worst strategy according to me, makes the patient go further into a shell and less compliant as minutes pass and the dentist gets angrier.
It could be a case of dental anxiety or dental phobia and I’ve seen both very closely.
Those with dental anxiety will have a sense of uneasiness when it’s time for their appointments. They’ll also have exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears.
Dental phobia is a more serious condition. It’s an intense fear or dread. People with dental phobia aren’t merely anxious. They are terrified or panic stricken and it’s a genuine problem.
I’ve had a patient who exhibits a classic case of dental phobia. She would come to the office building but before she could take the lift to our office, she would turn around, sit in her car and drive back home. She would call from her car and say, “Doc am heading back home! I just can’t get myself to come into the office!”
Of course we found a way to treat her, but differently. I will tell you in just a bit how we dealt with her.
We see dental anxiety in all ourword dentist has something magical about it that evokes the anxiety response.
Patients may force themselves to go, but they may not sleep the night before. It’s not uncommon for people to feel sick or in some cases, to actually get sick while they’re in the waiting room.
And of course we have ways to deal with that too!
Statistics reveal that 10 to 20 per cent of the people never end up seeing a dentist at all and that’s a huge percentage!
So what is it all about? Why the fear?
Research has shown some common factors like:
- Fear of Pain
The fear of pain is most common in adults 24 years and older. This may be because their early dental visits happened before many of the advances in “pain-free” dentistry.
- Feeling Helpless
Patients in the dental chair need to sit still. They can’t see what’s happening and have to submit themselves completely, making them feel helpless and out of control which may trigger anxiety.
The mouth is an intimate part of the body. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed to have a stranger looking inside. This may be a particular problem if they’re self-conscious about how their teeth look. Dental treatments also require physical closeness. During a treatment, the hygienist’s or dentist’s face may be just a few inches away. This can make people anxious and uncomfortable.
- Negative past experiences
Anyone who has had pain or discomfort during previous dental procedures is likely to be more anxious the next time around.
The changing face of dentistry and pain management today
As time has gone by and dental practice has become more evolved and patient-centric, the level of dental anxiety and pain management has become a serious business.
Some new research has set shop for gadgets that make dental anxiety seem like a thing of the past.
The Dentalvibe gadget was invented by DrStephen Goldberg DDS. This invention focuses primarily on helping to reduce pain in patients during dental procedures. Obviously this is quite important because dental pain is one of the major reasons why people don’t get the dental procedures they need as often as they need them.
The way Dentalvibe works is by tricking your brain into not feeling pain while a needle is inserted during dental procedures. Your brain will tend to ignore rhythmic sensations, but pay careful attention to more random ones that don’t follow a rhythm. So, by creating just such a non-constant rhythm, the device will get your brain to pay attention to that instead of the pain of a needle during gum procedures.
One problem with many dental procedures is one of communication. When you have a drill in your mouth, how do you properly communicate with the dentist that there’s a problem? This leads to many patients feeling like they are completely out of control during procedures even though they are conscious.
One recent solution to this is the ‘Dental Button’. This is a tool that connects to a dentist’s drill and allows the patient to press the button and cut power to the drill if they are uncomfortable with what is going at any point.
Many dentists have said that they use the button and it lets patients feel much more at ease and in control, even though few of them ever actually use it. But the psychological fear of being out of control is a major problem for many dental patients, so even the potential control that patients get back can go a long way to making procedures less stressful.
Most injections at the dentist’s office are handled with a needle. In order for it to be done properly, the dentist needs to make the anesthetic injection at exactly the right speed. If they go too fast, it can cause the stinging sensation many people are used to during a dental procedure.
The Wand is a device that controls the injection electronically using a computer, so that it goes much more smoothly without any human error problems. This can take the guesswork out of the procedure on the dentist’s side, and make people a lot calmer and assured about the entire process on the patient’s side.
Hard tissue lasers are getting popular as they can be used to cut tooth structure without using the dental drill. The sound of the drill and the fear it evokes is one of the biggest problem dentists deal with. The advent of the hard tissue laser may make dental drilling a thing of the past.
No noise and no pain! Dentistry couldn’t get any better.
Research in the field of dental hypnosis is making great strides and with great success. The process needs to be regulated. But for a patient willing to be hypnotized, the dental experience can be magical!
Dental phobia can now be easily dealt with Conscious Sedation. It involves sedating the patient with a cocktail of anesthetics which makes them completely comfortable and leaves them with no memory of the dental treatment later.
An advantage of this is that it can be carried out in the dental office and does not need complicated equipment but the dentist has to be thoroughly trained to administer it.
Keep smiling till I see you next week!