Dental anxiety is a frequently encountered problem for dentists. While many of the critical factors of teeth issues include lack of dental insurance, high treatment costs, and inhibited access to care, dental phobias remain one of the most universally recognized reasons people avoid going to the dentist. Addressing these fears involves understanding the complex nature of these fears and where they come from. What lies at the core of these fears, and how can aesthetic dentists help patients manage their fears when providing complex treatment?
What’s Behind Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia?
Avoidance is one of the most common manifestations of dental anxiety, and it’s one of the most harmful ways people hurt their teeth. Patients who experience dental anxiety and dental phobia often have a higher sensitivity to the idea of visiting and often have higher levels of pain while at their dental visit. Assessing these fears leads many researchers to find that dental anxiety and dental phobias evoke strong physical, emotional, and behavioral responses. These responses increase difficulty in cooperation, and avoidance often causes even worse oral health problems to occur, including decayed teeth, missing teeth, and poor periodontal status. These sets of circumstances also lead to vicious cycles. If the patient and dentist cannot manage their fear appropriately, complex procedures would be needed, which would only reinforce that fear entirely.
Because of the nature of dental anxiety, studies such as ones found in the Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dentistry journal look at the nature of dental anxiety and source out potential solutions for better dental-patient relationships. Through evaluating volunteers with interviews and questionnaires, the study found that many of the physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects of dental phobias often require dentists to not only rely on clinical judgments for diagnosing dental anxiety but also looking at a subjective assessment for anxious patients, as those with dental anxiety often mask their fears according to their responses. For dentists, this means taking affirmative action to help patients with dental anxiety and find better management tools.
What We Can Do To Help Manage Your Fears
For managing the patient’s fears, multitudes of treatments can be used. As each person’s level and intensity of fear measures differently, anxiety can be triggered by even the most subtle scenarios. Finding ways to intervene and manage this anxiety can improve how patients envision their appointments with their dentist. Our goals revolve around helping patients find better ways of receiving the treatment they need, and some of the ways we suggest that include:
- Relaxation Techniques: Encouraging patients to practice deep breathing exercises, use muscle relaxation techniques, and finding other means to relax can help patients reduce their anxieties and remove tension.
- Communication and Rapport: All good dental-patient relationships rely on good communication skills, which include encouraging patients to ask questions about their treatment, provide reassurance, normalize anxious emotions, and providing information completely.
- Stop-Signaling: As a subset of good communication skills, offering patients a complete explanation of the procedures and techniques used can help not only give patients the information they need but help relieve their anxiety.
- Behavioral Management Techniques: Other techniques, such as biofeedback, distraction, guided imagery, and even pharmacologic management, may also be used to help patients.
Overall, many of these methods can provide dentists with the tools they need to help patients and help patients understand their fears more in-depth, and help them receive the dental treatment they need.