It is said that fear is a companion of wise persons. Hundreds of popular phobias include hypopotomonstrosequiphobia, numerophobia or anatidephobia, fear of long words, numbers, or even ducks.
These examples are probably funny, but many people become serious on just hearing the word “odontologist”. This fear accompanies many of us, though it is not included in the list of the most popular phobias.
Anxiety when one senses the smell of medicines in the lobby, shaky hands trying to open the door, and crazy palpitations when one sits down on the odontologist’s electric throne – these are free supplements accompanying us during the visit to the odontologist. How do these unpleasant feelings occur and how could we get rid of them?
Causes of the fear
Most probably you will assume that the reason is a painful experience in your childhood that caused the long-term fear of odontologists. It is particularly true for older people who tried this procedure 20 or 30 years ago when equipment was not very modern, and medications were less effective, and the most common tranquilizer was “sit still, or I will punish you”.
“Older and modern technologies differ dramatically. A quarter of a century ago, modern materials, new technologies, and sparing techniques became available in Lithuania. Patients’ attitudes towards dental care also changed. Earlier on, many patients delayed their visits to doctors until the last minute because they were afraid of painful procedures. Nowadays, even young children are not afraid of the odontologist”, smiled our Clinic’s odontologist, Darius Migauskas.
What is the physiological background of fear?
Fear often occurs before a visit to an odontologist or immediately after the visit. However, this is not a rule. A constantly increasing fear that starts in the evening before the visit and reaches a culmination right before the end of a procedure, may even cause the patient to faint in the odontologist’s chair.
When the odontologist injects anesthetics, it is likely that the medication contains adrenalin, a stress hormone related to the response to danger. Adrenalin is constantly produced in a human’s body, and such a stress factor as tooth drilling is quite an effective stimulator. Thus when the likelihood of a painful procedure exists and there is a possibility to control the pain, you can just ask for an anesthetic. This will also eliminate a stronger response to stress.
An odontophobe’s story
“Nowadays even young children are not afraid of the odontologist”, smiles odontologist Darius Migauskas.
One stubborn, thirty year old odontophobe during his whole life had visited an odontologist only three times: once in his childhood, another time in adulthood when he decided to remove a wisdom tooth, and the third visit was in his thirties when he experienced an excruciating toothache. When one visits an odontologist so “frequently”, his teeth may be severely damaged, lesions may not be timely cured, and damage may be irreversible. In such a case despite a single or only several pain episodes, tooth lesions are constantly progressing and tissue weakens or is totally ruined.
How fear should be fought?
The most important and easiest thing is to talk with your doctor, tell him about your health. The experience of providers of various psychological services shows that what is most helpful is a discussion with an empathetic person who listens to you without prejudice and tries to understand your feelings. At this point, the patient may expect a mutual understanding with his doctor and resolution of the problem. In most cases, confidence in the doctor’s personality is a sufficient impulse to overcome fear.
Some patients with a perceivable fear that significantly exceeds real risks and the scope of unpleasantness, may need tranquilizers the day before the visit so that they will sleep better at night. Quality sleep sometimes has a huge impact by motivating a person to a heroic act such as a visit to the odontologist. Sometimes odontologists may offer Ibuprofen or an anti-inflammatory drug that may ease unpleasant feelings and help to relieve possible swelling. At this point, in order to prevent possible side effects, don’t forget to inform the odontologist about any medications you are currently taking.
Fear and pain are a powerful cocktail
During the procedure, the odontologist is able to control 99 percent of your physical feelings by using local anesthesia or other medical treatments. However, a good odontologist shall also take care of the emotional component of your pain. This requires three steps:
1. Attitude. At any time, the odontologist should help his patient stay painless. This may increase the duration of the procedure. Yet any rush may cause unpleasant feelings, and therefore it is necessary to take some time in order to understand the patient, to inform him about the course of the planned procedure, and to perform all procedures thoughtfully.
2. Modern equipment and novel therapies. Modern odontology, achievements of science and technology, offer us instruments that prevent the patient from having pain. Needless to mention, old dental drills that looked like metal-working machines are incomparable with the modern diamond “pencil”.
3. Regular visits. The most effective advice is to meet regularly with your odontologist and discuss teeth health, and to establish a permanent interpersonal relationship. The ensuing confidence very quickly turns the ‘boogeyman with a doctor’s gown’ into a careful and responsible specialist who wishes to help you get well.
The goal of the odontologist is to earn your confidence, and your decisive steps following these recommendations will help the doctor to achieve his goals. Trust your odontologist, and he will help you recall the visit as the most pleasant of all visits. Don’t fear to appear weak, share your fears and anxiety, and this will be the principal step to get rid of odontophobia.