Dental Phobia and Dental Anxiety:
A Five-Minute Cure
For many people, ‘dental phobia’ or ‘dental anxiety’ prevents them from visiting the dentist, leaving them vulnerable to serious tooth decay and gum disease. They end up requiring extensive treatment, which regular, routine examinations would have prevented.
Dr. Yampolsky has developed a six-step program to help patients who fear going to the dentist. This approach incorporates the mind-body concept where physical well-being can be affected by mental and emotional states.
A Simple 5 Minute Cure for Dental Anxiety
Many of us feel extremely anxious when we think of visiting the dentist. This fear is the cause of procrastination in scheduling dental appointments, missed or cancelled appointments, and difficulty in tolerating procedures during dental care.
Although many dentists will try to convince you that these fears are unfounded, we believe that there are actually many good reasons (even aside from painful past dental experiences) to feel anxious about visiting the dentist. By understanding these reasons and utilizing our simple techniques, dental anxiety can become a thing of the past!
The oral cavity is one of the most tender and most vulnerable parts of our body. We feed ourselves through it and kiss our loved ones with it--the mouth is literally a path to our innermost self. The tongue is the only organ in our body which is fully developed at birth and functions fully during the first 2 months of life. Our infant lives are dependent upon it for nourishment, to communicate and express our feelings, and to explore the world (We all know how infants just seem to put everything they touch into their mouths!). During this early part of our lives, we are helpless and dependent, unable to express ourselves fully, and vulnerable to pain outside of our control.
Does this describe the feelings aroused by a dental visit?!
During dental care, we place our mouths in a very vulnerable position. If we feel helpless, these infant experiences of dependency and vulnerability will arise from our unconscious minds. The result: anxiety.
A visit to the dentist is unlike any other medical experience. We place ourselves in a physically vulnerable position (on our backs), and suspend our usual physical boundaries by allowing the dentist to “invade” our bodies. We render ourselves unable to communicate in the usual way (since our mouths are what’s being tended to), and anticipate pain, while remaining conscious and fully alert. The physical proximity of the dentist may be perceived as threatening, and if we add to the mix the negative associations many of us have with doctors or other authority figures, it is easy to see how feelings of anxiety might arise.
Most of us agree that anxiety and fear notwithstanding, the benefits of timely dental visits far outweigh the cost of avoiding them. How then, do we cope with the anxiety we feel when faced with a dental appointment?
Eliminating Acute Anxiety
This exercise is intended to give you control over the physical discomfort of anxiety.
These steps give you some control over your anxiety, which enables you to reduce it.
Dr. Yampolsky’s office combines the six-step program with a “holistic” approach, offering:
We utilize a variety of educational visual aids that provide clear information about the treatment options. This emphasis on good communication with our patients helps them relax by eliminating uncertainties about their treatment.
Many of our patients tell us they really look forward to their visits with us.
What if these tactics to overcome the fear of visiting a dentist don’t work?
In some cases a step-by-step desensitization program can eliminate severe fear of the dentist. Another option is medication to help you relax for your appointments. Discuss this possibility with your dentist.
“Your relationship with your dentist is based on trust, and you should expect to be treated as an individual. Make requests. Don’t hesitate to ask for special treatment,” advises Dr. Yampolsky. “If you’ve been going to the same dentist your parents used when you were a teenager, but your needs may have changed or you no longer feel it’s a good ‘match,’ ask friends and relatives whose opinions you trust if they like their dentist. You can also find directories on the Worldwide Web with information about dentists in your community or call the dental society in your area.”