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What It Is and How to Handle It

By October 1, 2022November 21st, 2022Sacramento Dentist
Text spelling ‘don’t panic’ above a medical mask

Dentophobia, commonly known as fear of the dentist or dental anxiety, is a debilitating condition that can make getting necessary dental care much more challenging. Luckily, patients living with dental anxiety no longer have to sacrifice their comfort for exceptional care with our Sacramento dentist.

Dr. Timothy E. Mickiewicz is a highly-skilled and expertly-trained dentist delivering gentle and accessible care in a welcoming environment. From sleep medicine to temporomandibular joint disorders, Dr. Mickiewicz and his dedicated team are here to comfortably address all of your oral health needs.

If you’re ready to see how we can help you beat dentophobia, then give our Sacramento, CA, dental office a call at (916) 469-9178 or submit a message online here. But, if fear of the dentist is still keeping you from getting the care you need, then keep reading. We’ll explore dental anxiety and how we can help you control it.

What is dentophobia?

Dentophobia (sometimes called odontophobia) is an intense fear of dentists, dental tools, and dental facilities. This fear can keep patients from getting the yearly preventive care that they need. It can also prevent them from seeking help in the event of a dental emergency. 

Together, these two factors can lead to significant oral health issues that may result in:

  • Extensive dental decay
  • Advanced periodontal (gum) disease
  • Jaw bone atrophy
  • Tooth loss
  • Halitosis
  • Prolonged dental damage
  • Difficulty eating and speaking

How does dentophobia differ from White Coat Syndrome?

White Coat Syndrome (sometimes referred to as White Coat Hypertension) is a temporary condition in which patients exhibit elevated blood pressure and heart rates in the presence of medical providers. This is typically the result of nerves, and it does not prevent patients from seeking medical help when they need it.

Patients with dentophobia, however, experience an extreme fear of the dentist even when they are not in a dental office. In many cases, this intense fear prevents patients from contacting a dental facility, especially when they need help. As a result, dentophobia is far more debilitating than White Coat Syndrome.

How common is dental anxiety?

General dental anxiety is quite common, as experts estimate that roughly 36% of people in the United States have it. Moreover, experts estimate that approximately 12% of people have an extreme fear of the dentist. And, indeed, nearly 3% of all adults avoid going to the dentist altogether, even when they really need to.

Research indicates that women experience dental anxiety more frequently than men. In fact, approximately 5% of women have the condition as compared to only 3% of men.

Why do I have dental anxiety?

There are many reasons why patients might develop dentophobia, including:

Fear of Pain

The teeth and gums are incredibly sensitive, which can make some dental treatments feel very uncomfortable. Luckily, local and general anesthesia can help dull any pain that patients might feel during their treatments. However, this does not always reduce dental anxiety, as some patients fear that the anesthesia may wear off before their procedure is complete.

Fear of Blood and Needles

Unfortunately, needles and blood are common components in dental procedures. Some patients are afraid to be stuck with a needle, even if the injection delivers pain-eliminating anesthesia. Other patients, however, are afraid to see, smell, or taste their own blood during treatment. 

Fear of Choking, Gagging, or Vomiting

Dental procedures often trigger the gag reflex, which can cause some patients to panic during treatments. This is because they may be worried about choking on their own spit or tongue. And, in many cases, patients fear that gagging will cause them to vomit, leading to a somewhat (but not at all!) embarrassing situation. 

Fear of Smells and Sounds

Dental offices have very distinct smells and sounds. For many patients, these smells and sounds bring them right back to a bad experience that they had with a dentist in the past. Subsequently, these sensations may be enough to keep patients from seeking help when they need it most.

Previous Bad Experiences

We form our opinions based on our past experiences. It is for this reason that many patients stop visiting a dentist after having a bad or painful experience in a dental office.

What are the symptoms of dental anxiety?

There is a wide spectrum of symptoms that patients may experiences, such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia the night before a dental appointment
  • Strong emotional reactions to dental care, like crying or screaming

If you’re not sure if you have dentophobia, simply ask our Sacramento dentist. Dr. Mickiewicz can help you determine if you have dental anxiety and what you can do to get better, more comfortable care.

What can a dentist do about dentophobia?

Dentists can offer many nerve-soothing solutions, including: 

  • Sedation: Oral and intravenous (IV) sedation is a safe and effective way for patients to get preventive, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. These medications prompt optimal relaxation and lead to a better overall experience with better outcomes.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Exceptional dentists (like Dr. Mickiewicz) want to work closely with their patients’ medical providers to deliver comprehensive care. That’s why many dentists team up with their patients to help them get the anxiety-reducing medications they need before getting dental work done.
  • Comfort solutions: Comfort solutions may include blankets, pillows, or welcome distractions (like music, TV shows, or movies). These things can make dental procedures feel less threatening while also keeping patients’ minds busy during their treatments.

How can I beat my fear of the dentist?

Our Sacramento dentist recommends:

  • Breathing exercises: Simply breathing in for five seconds before releasing the breath for another five seconds may be enough to soothe frayed nerves.
  • Meditation: Focusing on relaxing the mind and body can help patients calm their nerves during dental work.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Talking about dentophobia is the first step in overcoming an intense fear of dentists. With cognitive behavioral therapy, patients verbally process their emotions surrounding dental anxiety in order to desensitize themselves and overcome their fears.

Ask Us How We Can Help You Fight Dental Anxiety

Is dentophobia keeping you from getting the oral care you need? You deserve comfortable care with a compassionate dentist who can alleviate your fears with effective solutions. So, don’t wait any longer–schedule an appointment with our gentle dentist in Sacramento, CA, today!
Getting started is easy–just give us a call at (916) 469-9178 or send our team a message here.