Overcoming dental fear – how does it work?
The causes of dental anxiety – also known as a dental phobia – are diverse and not always scientifically proven. It seems certain, however, that the massive kind of fear of the dentist mostly arose because of traumatic experiences and negative imprints in the childhood of those affected. Early pain experiences in the dental treatment, therefore, play an important role as well as negative images and ideas that pass on the parents and the respective environment consciously or unconsciously to a child. There seems to be an old “tradition of dental anxiety”, in which, by the way, dentists also had and are involved.
Although information about the widespread fear of the dentist has already been used and some help offers exist for this, the vast majority are still left to their own devices. Patients with dental anxiety usually find their way to a dental practice with the appropriate qualifications and experience after a long period of suffering.
This guide would like to give you orientation as a person with dental anxiety. Maybe it can help you to overcome your fear. Please take a little time to read. The suggestions, recommendations, and tips are based on over 30 years of continuous and focused treatment of anxiety patients, many conversations with them, and the personal experience of anxiety patients themselves, who have been thankful in helping to create this guide.
As an anxious patient and thus an expert, you are welcome to incorporate your own experiences as this guide lives and is constantly being expanded. Please send us your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org . We are always delighted with your feedback and will take it into account in future enhancements to this dentist anxiety guide.
A note on our own behalf: Since this guide is quite extensive according to his bundled wealth of experience, we have made it easier for you to navigate in the guide by opening one in the main navigation under the item ” Table of contents “, to get an overview of the entire guide book. Get content and easily switch directly to the individual guide topics.
you are not alone
One thing is certain: you are not alone with your dental fear. Reliable statistics indicate that 35 percent are very worried about root canal treatment and 19 percent are generally scared of visiting a dentist . Serious estimates assume that in Germany about 10 million people are affected by dental phobia. And – to say it straight away – the vast majority of them manage to get out of this often terribly painful and tormenting situation in the end still happy!
In our practice, about 70 percent of patients are affected by a more or less pronounced fear of dental treatment. Certainly more than half of them can be described as anxious patients with pronounced dental phobia.
At the same time, a certain fear is not at all astonishing: Nobody likes to open their mouths to let someone else do something with pointed implements that they do not know if it does not hurt like hell.
The human mouth is a vulnerable genital area. Every person feels discomfort or a kind of “being at the mercy” and “helplessness”.
But there are quite a few people in whom this situation – or even the idea of it – triggers a deep fear that is so strong, so massive and overpowering that they firmly believe that they can no longer release themselves from their own power.
Caught in a vicious circle
The mere thought of a dental treatment, the idea of a syringe, the high whirring of a dental drill, the typical smell of a dental treatment room … all that is enough to make you panic. Your pulse rate increases, the sweat breaks out …
You are now in a vicious circle of growing fear of dental treatment, growing chronic toothache and the subsequent deterioration of your teeth, as well as shame and despair.
In addition, there is often analgesic abuse, which has sometimes led to tablet addiction. Also organic diseases can be added. A life in paralysis and not infrequently in increasing isolation, which can lead to depression, are not uncommon …
At the same time – and unfortunately you can only believe that for the time being – you are closer to the beginning of a new positive phase of your life than you would ever suspect; a life with beautiful teeth, without pain, without shame and fear and with more joie de vivre.
Warm request: First of all, small steps
Just call a dental practice, make an appointment, just go to the dentist … – even this “small” step is so hard for you, as if you jump from a high mountain down to an immense depth, without a net and without a fuse. He seems like the hardest step of your life.
So please do not suddenly ask for yourself to throw all your fears, doubts, shame and years of desperation overboard in a single second. You can not just do that – even if it’s absolutely desirable. Of course, we sincerely wish you, and we know for sure, that you will most likely muster this courage soon.
But you should be serious now – the first! – Do not press too hard immediately.
You would not be in your current situation if it was that easy for you.
So now slowly and in turn. So far, that you can already call in a dental practice or make a trusted call, you are not even!
If your condition still permits, please take a few small, easy steps. Perhaps among the free recommendations described here, one or the other that comes to mind on your way to understanding that in the end, you do not have to be as brave as you are for the final step of getting yourself into dental care believe now … In spite of all the distress and all the pain you suffer, you should now take a little time for now.
- “Outen” yourself. Talk about it.To tell a stressful situation to another person personally and confidentially can be very helpful. At best, it gives you the feeling that you are sharing your suffering with someone, and that it therefore becomes a little easier. If possible, seek personal contact with a person who can tell you about your situation in private. As a person, be extremely afraid of the dentist. You can trust a relative, a friend, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague … And it can – why not? – be your family doctor, who may not have that much time, but the advantage that he is subject to secrecy and certainly can not treat you with dental care. Tip: You could calmly tell the receptionist that you want to talk about a problem that you only want to discuss with the doctor in private, but in any case you should give that person the chance to understand that there is something that will keep you busy and preparing you that you want to entrust something to him so that he or she can adjust to it and takes a little time for you. If you can not do otherwise, you can of course also make your request or appointment by phone or in the form of a personal e-mail Initiating. The actual conversation in which you open up and describe your plight, but if possible, you should lead personally in the presence of the other. The greatest relief gives you a personal conversation, so eye to eye. Make sure you ask someone, if possible, before
- Tip: Exchanges with sufferers
Of course, you also get great understanding from people who are suffering the same anxiety as you, namely the fear of dental treatment. So, if you lack the courage and the ability to seek a personal conversation in a timely manner, it’s still better to go online before you do nothing. Search specifically the anonymous exchange on social networks, forums, possibly chat forums, in which people are – just like you – on the road with dental anxiety. Here there is comfort and tips and encouraging, helpful examples. It is good to know that you are certainly not alone in your problems and desperation that there are thousands, even tens of thousands of people in the same situation.
- Tip: The good is so close
Your fear is great and it seems insurmountable? And yet: even your anxiety is not always necessarily only with tablets or with the help of a therapist. Our experience clearly shows that many patients have already noticeably alleviated their anxiety by making small, unassuming changes to their everyday lives. Do not worry, there are no other rules to follow for you. Just a few, often forgotten, little recommendations that cost you nothing and are so natural and elemental that we all forget them sometimes. They do not directly help you get the courage to treat your teeth, but you can contribute to your relaxation by yourself.
- Exercise in the fresh air: If possible, just take an hour’s walk, even without a big plan and without a fixed destination. Rely on your legs, trust in the solid ground under your feet, feel that you have the strength to go further.
- As often as possible, eat fresh foods that you like and that you can prepare yourself in peace and then eat with pleasure – in company or alone.
- Doing nothing: Do you – why not now? – just once for about 20 minutes nothing. No TV, no music, no food, no drink, no talk. You switch off all phones and all mobile and Internet-enabled devices, or at least make them silently, so your smartphone (even without vibration alarm), your PC or tablet PC or notebook etc. Nothing is announced: Neither act nor respond. You are now temporarily unavailable. Completely offline. Can you still do that? You can do it! You have it in your hand. And it strengthens your sense of self.
- Relax: In a metastatic study on dental fear published in November 2017, psychologists and dentists at Jena University Hospital have found that relaxation exercises (even during treatment) are very effective against dental anxiety.
They retain control
No idea is as terrible for you as this: you sit on the dental chair with your mouth wide open. The dentist is bent over her. You do not know what exactly he is doing and how much longer he works in your mouth. You can not talk, you can not ask if you will get an injection right away or if a tooth will be pulled. They are totally at the mercy and can not end this situation on their own ….
Do not worry: this nightmarish situation will never happen to you. Because the dentist you trust will guarantee you, before any necessary treatment, only to do what he previously told you in peace. And he will treat you only after he has made sure that you understand him and agree with his proposal. Even during the treatment, he will give you the opportunity to breathe and interrupt yourself at any time. After all, they can not talk to him.
Fundamentally important is that you alone decide and decide what to do. The right dentist will only do what you want. The control must lie with you
Which practice is the right one?
Today, there are a growing number of dental practices that have focused on treating patients with anxiety in front of the dentist and before dental treatment. Make sure: Is this a practice that gives you noticeable understanding and respect? Or is it a practice that has been dedicated to the treatment of anxiety patients only to increase their treatment numbers?
There is currently no objectively verifiable qualification in this regard, which you could trust in principle – except maybe proven long-standing experience with anxiety patients.
When choosing the right dental practice for you, you are still on your own. Ultimately you can always rely only on recommendations from friends or stakeholders, or sources and information from the website that you can not really verify.
Which dental practice is the right one for you, decides in the end alone your personal impression and of course you receive this only through your active personal contact. However, if it does not work out at all, of course, a person of your trust can also contact you. To make your choice a little easier, here are some hints and criteria that may be the first signs that you make the right choice:
- As a requesting anxiety patient, you will receive an appointment at very short notice.
- You do not have to tell immediately whether you are privately or legally insured.
- You do not have to wait for this appointment.
- You will not be rushed for treatment at this first appointment.
- Money Worries: A suitable dentist will calmly and without pressure show you a way to design the necessary treatment so that you will never get into financial distress.
- Does a dental practice have a well-founded experience with sedative, ie sedative medications? Are homeopathic remedies also being addressed?
- Are recognized relaxation techniques offered? In this practice there may also be routine in the treatment of anxiety patients under general anesthesia or in deep sleep of similar relaxation?
Here are some more questions or impressions that can help you find a dental practice for you and your situation:
- Does a dental practice take time especially for anxiety patients? Is there really anyone on the phone who does not just talk to you the first time, but with full concentration and enough consideration?
- Do you immediately have the impression: Here is my immediate and correct assessment of my situation? They seem to know me?
- Your counterpart on the phone has a reassuring effect on you and listens to you first. They feel: I would not be laughed at here. Here I’m guaranteed no blame.
- Here only what I allow would happen. Here I keep the control from the outset.
And if you are fortunate enough to find several dental practices that meet all of the aforementioned features and look ideal, look for a sound dentist experience. Researchers have found in a recent study (2018), that the fear of the patient is transmitted to inexperienced dentists and make this significantly more mistakes.
Nobody laughs at you. No one wrinkles his nose. Nobody looks horrified or critical or skeptical.
A trusted Dentist Dentist would never laugh – even remotely – at the possibly bad condition of your teeth or gums, or even look dismissively or shake your head silently.
In a reputable dental practice that specializes in anxiety patients like you, you do not have to listen to reproaches or even hear wordless contempt when opening your mouth. Not only the treatment team, but also the entire staff of a practice must be instructed and always aware of your own difficult personal situation. That you personally have the courage to come to the practice, that deserves appreciation, and you must feel the same – as well as you can rely on secrecy and the constant assurance that all in practice are your allies, the only do what you really want.
you can do this
Suppose your insight that something needs to be done or your suffering is so high that you just can not stand it anymore. Maybe you already have the phone number of one or more dental practices. How could you make your first phone call now? Here is an example of your request:
“Hello, my name is … Do you also treat patients with acute anxiety in front of the dentist in your practice? I have not been to the dentist for … years and have crazy problems. “
This could be your first phone request, if you have managed to make that decision and call a dental office. Maybe you’ve sent an e-mail and received an encouraging response before?
Anyway, now it all depends on whether you receive a friendly and honest voice at the other end of the phone.
And so or so, the answer to your question should be:
“Hello Mrs. / Mr. … Of course you are right with us. Many thanks for your call. Patients come to us with great anxiety for many years in front of the dentist. If you wish, I offer you a short-term appointment only for consultation without treatment …
Speaking of “general anesthesia”
Some people with dental phobia do not feel comfortable with the idea of general anesthetic treatment. Often, in addition, the concern is expressed, under general anesthesia, not to lose the real fear, but to quasi-temporarily just numb them.
Both are emotionally understandable, but usually rationally unfounded.
Anesthesia – this is the medical specialty – has developed enormously. The precise, individual dosage makes a general anesthetic for most people medically safe today. It is comparable to a gentle deep sleep. The patient lies relaxed on a comfortable couch and gets nothing from the treatment. Of course, every decision for or against general anesthesia must be preceded by a detailed discussion with the dentist and the anesthesiologist. If general anesthesia makes sense and is wanted by you, a detailed medical history should be taken before treatment, for example by your family doctor to rule out any possible risk.
Treatment under general anesthesia (also known as intubation anesthesia or “ITN” for short) causes many anxiety patients to permanently lose their anxiety. Concern about treatment under general anesthesia causes anxiety patients not to permanently lose their fear, which is usually not confirmed in practice. On the contrary, experience has shown that anxiety patients, for example, after a first treatment under ITN at the second treatment appointment, allow a less complex treatment under conventional local anesthesia. These are positive signs of a gradual “erosion” of anxiety, which is advocated in behavioral psychotherapy in phobic patients.
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Are you ready?
Finally, I would like to give you a little more courage and, so to speak, sweeten the idea of how it can feel if you have managed to break your vicious circle.
Thankfully, some patients with great dental anxiety have agreed to give you a brief personal account of their experience.