Dental phobia: Causes and effects

Up to eight percent of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. A good number of people also fight through anxiety and fear to still make regular visits to their dentist.

Although not all of those cases would be classified as dental phobia, a fear of the dentist is a very common issue that can lead to some very serious oral health problems. 
(If you’d like to know more about how DentalVibe can help you combat dental phobia in patients, check out some of our client testimonials.) For now, let’s examine some of the causes and effects of dental phobia:

Causes of dental phobia and anxiety

Dental phobia is a common issue, and many people will attribute their dental anxiety to a bad experience at some point in their lives. For many, their fear of the dentist started when they were children and persisted into adulthood. However, a bad experience is not the only reason for dental phobia. Sometimes, dental phobia is just the symptom of other issues.

Some of the common causes of dental phobia include:

  • Prior negative experiences. It is only natural that someone that has had negative experiences at the dentist would fear going there again. This could be from having worked with an unprofessional dentist or having gone through painful procedures. Patients that have had negative experiences will need to be reassured and walked through procedures transparently.
  • Feeling helpless. Patients with other emotional or psychological issues can have those conditions triggered by the feeling of helplessness, which can result from  Veterans with PTSD and victims of domestic abuse are particularly susceptible to dental phobia for this reason. Patients that feel helpless will need to be reminded that they can stop the procedure at any time and are in complete control.
  • Embarrassment over condition of teeth and mouth. Embarrassment is a common reason for feeling uneasy at the dentist. Often, those that avoid the dentist because of embarrassment perpetuate the cycle of poor oral health. They may fear being ridiculed or criticized about their tooth care. Patients with embarrassment over the condition of their teeth will need to be reminded that dentists see teeth in all conditions, and do not judge their patients for poor oral health, but instead want to help them improve.

Easing your patients’ dental fears and anxieties

As a dentist, you will run into individuals that have a fear of the dentist throughout your career. In fact many dentists build sustainable practices by becoming known as a practice that specializes in patients with dental anxiety.

The best thing that you can do for patients with dental phobia and anxiety is to pinpoint what you think is causing their fears and talk about it with them to ease their concerns. Investing in tools that help the patient to find comfort and ease pain is a good first step. Tools like DentalVibe use vibration to eliminate pain from injections, improve comfort and reduce anxiety in patients.

Explaining your procedures before beginning and while the work is being done will help your patients to have a better understanding of the process and not become overwhelmed during the procedure. Going the extra mile to ease their fears will not only help them to achieve positive oral health but will help you to secure a long term patient that trusts you as their provider.

If you’d like to attract more patients to your practice or help them resolve dental phobia, consider DentalVibe. Download our free whitepaper, The Benefits of Vibration on Dental Pain and Anxiety, to discover how DentalVibe can benefit your practice.

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