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The Eyes Behind The Mask: Overcoming Dentophobia

Dr. Aneel Shafi

3 min read

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Everyone is a little afraid of sitting in the dentist chair since the dental procedures involve sharp tools. The downside of this fear is that people lose out on proper dental care. A general fear of going to the dentist is however not that problematic as people do end up at the dentist if they have a major problem. For others the things are not so simple as no simple trick is able to help these people in overcoming dentophobia which is an irrational and deep-rooted fear of dental visits and dentists and thus avoid them at any cost.

Dentophobia can be attributed to a bad prior experience, or the loss of control in a dentist’s chair, a general fear of surgical instruments and clinical environments or the automatic instinct to protect one’s airways-a holdover from man’s primal days-triggering a flight-or-fight response. But, this past tauma should not make you negligent to dental care; there are ways to get over it.

Since good oral health and disease prevention is directly proportional to regular dental visits, we are listing down a few steps that can be helpful in overcoming dentophobia.

1- Acknowledge Its Existence

Understanding and recognition are the first steps towards overcoming any kind of phobia. If you find yourself getting overly anxious whenever you think of visiting the dentist and a panic sort of feeling awakens which physically stops you from a dental check-up, accept and admit that you have a phobia.

Once you have acknowledged the presence of a dentophobia, identify the root source of your phobia and write it down. Making a list of things that make you anxious at the dentist improves clarity and helps you and your dentist formulate solutions and shortlist coping methods.

2- Find a Dentist You Like

As mentioned earlier, there is a complete loss of control when someone visits a dentist and for these visits to go smooth, a sense of understanding and trust is necessary between the patient and the doctor. Thus, oftentimes, communication problems with your current dentist can lead to dental-visit related anxiety.

Seek recommendations from friends and family or shortlist potential candidates and make appointments via oladoc.com to discuss how they might cater to your specific fears until you find the right fit.

Avoid clinics with an ‘unwelcoming’ environment and dentists with an overly clinical behavior, who are unsympathetic and dismissive towards your fears and concerns. Try going for something or someone that feels familiar whether it me their clinic or the manner in which they converse.

3- Go Early, Start Small

Make appointments as early in the day as possible to reduce waiting induced anxiety and only discuss your oral health problems and treatment options (if required) in the first consultation with your new doctor. Start with simpler procedures such as teeth-cleaning and proceed to the more complex ones over multiple visits to accustom yourself to the environment.

4- Stay in Control

Before any minor or major procedure, have your dentist explain it to you; this will reduce your anxiety. Know that you can stop the dentist at any point during a procedure to calm you down if it gets too uncomfortable or overwhelming.

5- Play Pretend

Most dental procedures have complex names and scary descriptions to match. Relate a particularly frightening procedure to a common, everyday action, such as associating a ‘teeth-cleaning’ with ‘brushing’.

6- Relax

Try simple breathing exercises such as rhythmical or deep breathing or a stress ball during an appointment to reduce stress. Some dentists might also prescribe anti-anxiety medication or nitrous oxide before or during an appointment. Some procedures can also be performed with sedation.

7- Distract Yourself

Another important way for overcoming dentophobia is to distract yourself before the appointment actually happens. While many dental offices now have televisions, you can avoid panicking before an appointment and during a procedure by listening to your favorite music or audiobooks. Make sure it’s something new to increase the interest and reduce the stress factor.

8- Phone a Friend

Overcoming dentophobia does not have to be a loner effort. You can ask a friend for help too.Consider taking a trusted friend or family member to sit with you during your next appointment or a certain procedure as they might help distract, calm and relax you.

9- Hum a song or tune

If you feel anxious, one of the best way to calm yourself is by humming your favorite song or tune that makes you feel good. This will probably help you get over the current moment and make yoyur brain release chemicals that make you happy and relaxed. Thus, making the whole experience way smoother and more pleasant.

These tips are written with the general audience in mind and does not take into account who have pathological anxieties. If this guide does not prove to be effective, resolving your phobia might require psychological aid. Book an Appointment with a top Dentist or Psychologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor to cater to your dental phobia.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Aneel Shafi - Author Dr. Aneel Shafi is a Psychiatrist practicing in Lahore. He has MBBS and FCPS (Psychiatry) degrees and been helping patients deal with mental health issues for over 7 years. You can book an appointment with Dr. Aneel Shafi through oladoc
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