Understanding and Managing Dental Fears

A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal read, “More Dentists Taking Pains to Win Back Fearful Patients”. It noted that nearly one quarter of all Americans avoid the dentist because they are afraid, according to surveys conducted by the American Dental Association. 

The fear of dentists may take many forms including fear of pain, needles, blood, gagging, helplessness, violation of personal space, and personal criticism. The severity of dental fears can range from moderate anxiety to full blown panic attacks and complete avoidance of the dentist. This can result in relatively small dental problems deteriorating into large, costly and extensive dental treatment later on.

While gas, anesthesia and other medical treatments can ease fear and pain for some, a significant number of people can benefit, in fact, need psychological treatment to get them into the dental chair and manage their emotions.  Approaches like hypnosis, cognitive therapy and behavior therapy, can help fearful and phobic patients better manage and in some cases, overcome their problems and get the dental care they need. 

I have worked with a number of patients with long term and severe dental related problems  and have helped them successfully cope in conjunction with coordinating treatment with their dentist.

Proper treatment does require a comprehensive evaluation to match the correct treatment approach to the patient and presenting problems.

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