Do you have a tendency to experience dental fear or phobia? If so, you’re not alone. Dr. Terry Preece, dentist in Anchorage, shared some interesting information about the prevalence and potential causes of dental phobia. Read on to learn more about the condition, including new research and tips on how to handle dental fear.
Multiple studies suggest that about 75% of US adults experience some form of dental fear, ranging from mild to severe. About 5-10% of US adults struggle with dental phobia, which is an intense fear of dentistry and receiving dental treatment. For these people, the fear may be so strong that they aren’t able to come in for regular dental appointments. This can cause a problematic cycle, though, because missing regular cleanings and checkups can allow bigger problems to develop. These bigger problems, like cavities or gum disease, require more intensive treatment, which is even scarier than a simple cleaning. So, the person with dental phobia may find their dental health declining rapidly, and feel unable to do anything about it.
New research indicates that dental fear has a genetic basis that is inherited from parents. There are environmental factors to consider, and contributing experiences like a particularly scary or painful trip to the dentist during childhood. The researchers studied dental fear specifically, but their findings indicate that a predisposition to fear – particularly a fear of pain – and anxiety may be a genetic factor for other types of phobias. Anchorage dentist Dr. Preece suggests sedation dentistry as an excellent coping mechanism for those experiencing dental fear.
Fear of the dentist can be addressed in the same ways as other phobias, and great success has been found with immersion or exposure therapy. These treatments involve repeated exposure to the phobia, so the patient gradually becomes more comfortable with – and less fearful of – the subject of their phobia. Sedation dentistry or medication may be necessary to facilitate any type of treatment, be it time sensitive dental treatment or therapeutic techniques.
If your fear is so extreme that you can’t even enter a dentist’s office, you can start by meeting with a therapist. They can provide the therapy mentioned above, as well as a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. Xanax, Ativan, and Valium are all frequently prescribed to help patients get through experiences that they fear, including dental visits. Once at the office, your dentist can help you with a range of sedation dentistry options.
Dr. Preece offers several different types of sedation dentistry, for everything from regular cleanings to cosmetic dentistry at his Anchorage, AK practice. He may first suggest at-home methods like breathing exercises and meditation. Patients who come in for appointments can be treated with hypnosis, which uses the power of suggestion to aid relaxation. Nitrous Oxide Gas (laughing gas) is another common form of dental sedation. Stronger forms of sedation include oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation. These options, combined with a welcoming environment and a sensitive, caring dentist, can provide dramatic relief for those suffering from dental phobia.