Dental Anxiety is fundamentally a form of anxiety.  We have made the mistake of thinking that the human physiological response/reaction of fear/anxiety can be designated by the form it takes.  We have thus named various phobias or fears and anxieties with respect to how they manifest, –

  1. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions.
  2. Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. …
  3. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. …
  4. Aerophobia is the fear of flying. …
  5. Cynophobia is the fear of dogs. …
  6. Astraphobia a fear of thunder and lightning.
  7. Trypanophobia isextreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles.
  8. Social Phobia is nervousness/anxiety in social situations.

These names or labels are helpful in describing the issue that the person is facing but they can also limit and even misdirect us. If the item which causes the fear or anxiety to arise becomes our focus, we can easily lose sight of the person and the agitation of the physiological and neural system within that person’s mind/body system.  It also might be pointing us away from the best way to deal with it.

We might ask these questions to better align ourselves.  For example, should Aerophobia be addressed on an airplane by a pilot or flight attendant? Should Acrophobia be addressed on the roof of a skyscraper by the concierge of the building? Should Social Phobia be treated in the village square by the local mayor? 

These questions are to point to the problem of attempting to treat Dental Phobia in the dental clinic by a dentist. Are we on the wrong path with this?  How qualified are dentists to deal with physiological and neurological trauma of dental phobia and why would we choose to offer the help in the place where many of the traumas occurred.

The evidence points to many of the traumas at the root of dental phobia/anxiety being inflicted by dentists in the surgery or clinic.  How much understanding and training are dentist given in college to deal with the problem?

This is why we need to review our perspective on this problem if we want to get a solution.  Let me offer then this definition of Dental Phobia/Anxiety

So called Dental phobia or Dental Anxiety is a valid normal physiological (body/mind/emotion) response in a healthy human being to an unresolved past trauma, related to and triggered by a frightening or terrifying dental or other experience.  Although labelled as a phobia, it is not at all irrational when understood and the degree of anxiety relates directly to the intensity of the original experience. It is, like all phobias and anxieties, completely healable.

It can often have a specific reference to where the specific trauma happened e.g., a fear of dentist needles will result where the trauma was related to the use of a needle during an injection.  Other traumas may relate to the treatment or pain around a rotten or decayed tooth.  Being scared of the dentist always has a very valid reason from the point of view of the one who was traumatised. Sometimes even the sight of a bad tooth will trigger the traumatic memory.  Many traumas will occur around the noise or sensation of a drill which was associated with severe pain. sometimes it can be a smell that triggers the memory and anxiety.  Sometimes it is a combination of many factors.

Although dentist anxiety medication can seem like a good idea in the short term, it does not ever solve the problem.  It’s like using alcohol to go on a date.  The issue is hidden but not solved.  To solve the issue, we must go deeper and so this deeper approach is the best treatment for dealing with dental anxiety in my view.

It is absolutely possible to overcome all of it and have an easy relationship with dentistry and the dentist. To achieve this, we need a new perspective and a new understanding. To understand the causes, we need to explain how the body/mind/emotion system works and that is the first part of the solution to the problem. As we move in this direction, we can begin to understand the mechanism of how dental phobia and anxiety is produced.  The underlying method that I recommend is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy methodology often referred to as CBT.  The best method I have encountered is a combination of Mindfulness, Neuroscience and a Cognitive Behavioural theoretical under-pinning to go deeply to the core of the trauma. 

Dentists, wishing to help people with this debilitating problem need to educate themselves in these methods.

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