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Am I a Dental Phobic?

written by: Nicole Luck • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/3/2011

If you are asking yourself, "Am I a dental phobic?" and wondering if a fear of the dentist is rational, rest assured, dental phobia is a real disorder. The causes of dental phobia range from bad dental experiences to generalized anxiety regarding the loss of control.

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    Am I a Dental Phobic? Introduction

    The realization that delaying routine dental care can lead to a decrease in dental health may not be enough to get someone suffering from dental phobia to the dentist. For those asking themselves - "Am I a dental phobic?" - the reality of the situation is very real. Sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat and an overall sense of dread on the approach to the dentist's office are the reality for a number of people.

    Dental phobia can keep many individuals from the dentist's chair until a real problem develops and the pain or irritation becomes too much to overcome. Understanding the causes of dental phobia and working to address the issues related to this fear can have a positive impact on dental health and physical well-being, helping to ward off diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    If you find yourself canceling dental appointments and delaying essential treatments, you may indeed suffer from dental phobia. The signs and symptoms of dental phobia are as varied as the causes. Some patients may notice a general sense of uneasiness or anxiety while in the dentist chair or before, while others may be embarrassed at the thought of someone inspecting their teeth.

    Symptoms of anxiety include:

    • Muscle tensions and aches
    • Feelings of dread
    • Stomach problems
    • Increased irritability
    • Tiring easily
    • Jumpy and edgy
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Inability to relax

    During treatment, a feeling of suffocation may sit in when tools enter the mouth cavity and as panic increases patients may request a break or become noticeably upset. Other signs and symptoms include feeling as if your dentist doesn't care or respond to your needs. Dental phobics can also become physically ill at the thought of treatment.

    Sometimes the symptoms can be so severe that they can cause anxiety or panic attacks.

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    Causes

    Consider past dental experiences when investigating the root cause of your dental phobia. Often, those with dental phobia have experienced past traumatic experiences related to dental care. This can include experiences with pain and discomfort while at the dentist office. In addition, stories from friends, family and the media arena all add fuel to a general anxiety related to dentists and dental treatments.

    For some people, dental phobia can be linked to other disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorders.

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    Treatment

    For those asking themselves, "Am I a dental phobic?" consider investigating various treatment options. Start with communicating your fears with your dentist. Your dentist should be more than willing to discuss ways that they can make you more comfortable. If you find that your dentist does not take your concerns seriously, seek out a new dentist office.

    Try getting your mind off the procedure by listening to music. For treatment beyond the traditional cleaning, speak to your dentist about anxiety management techniques, including oral and IV sedation. For severe cases of dental phobia, treatment by a psychologist is recommended. A psychologist can help you develop a plan to deal with dental phobia, including identifying the cause of dental phobia and treatment options which are appropriate for your situation.