Dental Fear Still an Obstacle for Many Patients
Dentistry has seen some dramatic changes over the last twenty years. Better anesthetics, advances in techniques and technology have greatly reduced the potential for pain during dental treatment. Some dentists have had training in managing patients with significant dental fears or phobias. Despite these positive developments, considerable numbers of patients still avoid dental care due to high levels of anxiety or fear.
The first and most important step in helping a patient overcome their fear of the dentist is to determine what the root cause of their fear is. It is of critical importance for the dentist to take the time to understand what has triggered their patient to have these fears, and then have a workable solution to help the patient overcome them. Here are some common dental fears and what a dentist can do to help their patients with them:
Fear of Pain. The dentist can use a newer, stronger local anesthetic like articaine, wait and make sure the patient is sufficiently numb enough to do a procedure painlessly, let the patient know what to expect before, during and after the procedure, or reschedule a procedure if the patient is not numb enough to do it comfortably.
Fear of the Needle or Dental Drill. Some procedures can be done without a needle or a drill with the use of newer technologies like dental lasers and air abrasion. When a drill is used, super thin dental burs or diamonds can treat some cavities without the needle. Topical gels used today can be made in higher concentrations to greatly reduce the pinch of the needle. Some dentists use a computer controlled “needle” called the wand to give painless injections, while others rely on thinner needles using a careful and gentle technique.
Fear of Gagging. For some patients, taking an x-ray, or impression (mold of the mouth) is almost impossible due to a feeling of gagging or choking during the procedure. The dentist can remedy this problem by spraying the mouth with a topical anesthetic spray, using impression materials that harden quickly and are better tasting, or have the patient sit up or stand during the procedure. The dentist can also gently hold the back of patient’s neck and instruct him or her to concentrate on breathing deeply through their nose.
Fear of Loss of Control. The dentist should take the time to explain what they need to do and why, so the patient has an active role in their treatment.
Fear of being Embarrassed. The dentist should have a compassionate attitude about treating every patient. There is no reason a dentist should ever scold a patient about the condition of their mouth. This only leads to making the patient feel uncomfortable, putting up yet another barrier to getting their dental treatment done. People avoid dental care for many reasons; it is not the role of the dentist to judge the patient, but to look for solutions to their dental problems in a respectful way that allows them to retain their dignity.