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Dental Phobia Explained

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Did you know that a dental chair can be one of the most stressful places for many patients? Dental Phobia is not only real, it’s actually quite common. This usually stems from the misconception that dental work is painful, or stressful. This feeling stems from miserable experiences that patients had in the past when dentists did not have all the available techniques that we do today to help patients remain calm, and pain free. The truth is that today every dental treatment should be painless and actually new offices should provide a very comfortable experience for the patients.

What is Dental Phobia?

Dental Phobia is simply the fear of visiting your dentist, prosthodontist, or other oral surgeon. This is a common fear that plenty of people have. If you get scared about going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9% and 20% of Americans avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. This means that those patients eventually might develop serious dental issues with negative consequences regarding esthetics and function. Indeed, it is a universal phenomenon with psychological consequences.

Dental phobia is a more serious condition than just having some anxiety. This phobia leaves patients literally panic stricken and terrified. These patients are aware that the fear is totally irrational, but unfortunately, they are unable to do much about it. Patients with Dental Phobia can exhibit classic avoidance behavior; they will do everything to avoid going to the dentist. Usually, patients like this will only visit the dentist when they have no other choice because they are experiencing extreme pain.

Signs of dental phobia could be:

  • Trouble sleeping the night before the dental appointment
  • Feeling of nervousness that escalate while in the dental office waiting room
  • Crying or feeling physically ill at the thought of the dental visit
  • Intense uneasiness when dental instruments are being used or even seen on the tray
  • Sudden breath shortness at the dental office

Causes of Dental Phobia

The most common cause of dental phobia is the fear of pain; it stems from an early dental experience that could be characterized by unpleasant or even dental “pain and horror” stories told by others. Thanks to the many advances in dentistry over the years, most of today’s dental experiences have to be considered pain free.

Here are some other causes of Dental Phobia:

  • Fear of injections or fear that the injection won’t work: many patients are afraid of needles, especially when inserted into their mouth. Beyond this fear, others fear that the anesthesia won’t last long or the dose wasn’t enough to eliminate the discomfort before the dental procedure begins.
  • Fear of anesthetic side effects: some people fear the potential side effects of anesthesia such as dizziness, feeling faint or nausea. Others don’t like the numbness that can last for hours and create issues when talking or chewing.
  • Loss of control: Feeling of losing control due to the reclined position of the dental chair with the mouth wide open
  • Personal space issues: Embarrassing and uncomfortable feelings due to the loss of personal space and physical closeness to the dentist.
  • Embarrassment of appearance: Feelings of self consciousness about the appearance of their teeth or dental hygiene.

Once the provider knows the problem, he will be able to work with the patient and determine the best ways to treat the anxiety. The main thing that needs to be emphasized is that mental preparation can be of paramount importance and the openness with the dentist can help tremendously with dental anxiety.

The key to coping with dental anxiety is to be open with the dentist and discuss the fear openly with your provider. Most dentists know that the patients do not like the dental environment and would be very empathetic with those patients.

Extreme Dental Phobia

People with more extreme cases of Dental Phobia may experience full-blown panic attacks at the thought of going to the dentist. For example, someone with dental phobia may cancel their dental cleaning appointments repeatedly, even though they know they need dental care.

In extreme cases, a person may go years without seeing a dentist at all, leading to severe dental health problems. The phobia can be so debilitating that people cannot bring themselves to get treatment even when in dire pain from a dental issue.

Dental Phobia Dentists Near You

At Novudentics, we believe that dental visits should be a fun experience. Many people searching for a dental phobia dentist near their location end up visiting us because of how great we are with patients that have this fear.

We talk extensively to our patients and they feel open to discuss their inner stressful feelings. We also believe that most of the dental anxiety is being caused by delayed treatment or long dental visits. This is why extensive dental work or advanced procedures (like dental extractions, implants or full mouth reconstructions) should be performed by specialists that will minimize the dental visit time and the potential complications.

Dental Phobia Dentists in Palm Beach, Florida

If you are looking for a specialized dental professional in the Palm Beach, Florida area that can help manage your Dental Phobia, please consider visiting us as Novudentics. Dr. K is a prosthodontist who is renowned for his kind manner, and gentle touch when it comes to managing the fear of going to the dentist.

The reviews that we have speak for themselves, and the reason we are able to manage such a large patient base all comes back to how great we make your experience. Call us at 561-567-7880, today, or make your appointment online via the button at the top of each page.

We look forward to working with you, and making your dental visit nothing short of excellent.

Sedation Dentistry Can Help Manage the Fear of Dental Work

One of the most common ways to cope with dental anxiety or phobia is sedation dentistry. There are 4 types of sedation dentistry:

  1. oral sedation
  2. inhalation of nitrous oxide
  3. IV sedation
  4. general anesthesia

The method of sedation largely depends on the level of anxiety, complexity of dental procedure and medical history of the patient.

The first three usually are adequate to cover most of the patients’ needs whereas the general anesthesia occurs in a hospital setting and is recommended for extremely phobic patients.

Oral Sedation

When it comes to oral sedation for dentistry, most dentists use triazolam, which is in the diazepam family. The most common commercial medication is Halcion and it comes in the form of a pill that the patient takes one hour before the appointment.

This will relax the patient and take the edge off the patient during the appointment. The main thing that we need to mention here is that the patient cannot drive and has to be accompanied by a friend or family member. Oral sedation is usually short acting and is considered very safe.

IV Sedation

IV sedation provides deeper levels of sedation, and is considered very fast and predictable. The healthcare provider delivers sedative medications directly to the bloodstream through an IV line.

During the procedure, the dentist will monitor the heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. IV sedation is recommended for extensive dental procedures or patients who can’t stay still for long appointments.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Sedation:

You probably know this “laughing gas.” Nitrous Oxide sedation is a mild sedative agent that is administered through the nose inhalation and effectively manages pain and provides the patient with a happy experience. It should be considered a standard of care for every dental office, and it is very safe. This gas is given to the patient through a nose piece, and includes a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen.

After the dental appointment is completed, the patient is given 100% oxygen for 5 minutes. After this 5 minute period, the patient is completely awake and no longer impaired.

Another advantage of the nitrous oxide sedation is that the patient does not need to be accompanied and can drive safely after the completion of the dental procedure.

How to Overcome Dental Phobia

The first step in overcoming dental phobia is to find an understanding dentist who you feel comfortable with and can help ease your anxieties. Make sure to openly discuss your fears with your dentist so they can adjust procedures and accommodate you.

Set small dental goals for yourself, such as simply having an examination first before working up to more invasive procedures. Ask your dentist about relaxation techniques prior to your appointment like deep breathing or meditation to help calm your nerves.

Consider asking your dentist about anti-anxiety premedication that you can take before a dental visit to reduce fear and help you remain calm and relaxed. Gradually work your way up to completing full cleanings and procedures with the help of a supportive dentist you trust.

Who Wrote This?


Dr. Kallithrakas (Dr. K) is the lead prosthodontist for Novudentics in Palm Beach, Florida. He obtained a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and conducted a one year fellowship in Implant Dentistry sponsored by Biomet 3i at NOVA Southeastern University. Dr. K also has a Master in Science in which his thesis The difference in microgap between zirconia and titanium abutments; a pilot study was published.

Dr. K and his team at Novudentics have extensive training in all areas of prosthodontics, and serve patients across the United States from his Palm Beach office location. He believes that changing someone’s smile can help make a difference in many aspects of someone’s life.

Connect with Dr. Kallithrakas on Linkedin.

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