It is normal for people to feel a certain degree of anxiety when faced with situations that cause them to feel apprehensive – especially if that situation is perceived to be potentially difficult, dangerous, or even uncomfortable/painful. In some instances, anxiety can have a positive effect in the sense that an individual can prepare him or herself for what could be a challenging situation.
However, anxiety starts to have a negative effect when it influences normal behavior, as in the case when one actually changes or stops his/her actions to completely avoid the cause of the anxiety attack. The serious impact of severe anxiety can have grave consequences on the way people lead their daily lives – and can seriously lessen the quality of life that they deserve.
Dental Anxiety & Phobia Topics in this Page
(Clicking a link below will jump to that topic)
- Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia
- What Causes Dental Anxiety and Phobia?
- Dental Anxiety and Embarrassment
- Panic Attacks
- What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack?
- Common Fears Associated with Dental Anxiety/Dental Phobia
- The Charles Linden Method for Treating Panic and Anxiety Attacks
- Charles Linden Method on iPhone, iPad, and iPod
- Paul McKenna iPhone and iPad Apps for Overcoming Dental Phobia
- Dealing with Dental Anxiety
Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia
Countless individuals from all over the world feel a degree of nervousness when faced with the idea of going to the dentist to have a routine checkup, or to undergo a dental treatment for specific dental concerns. The anxiety or fear that these people experience can range from a slight feeling of discomfort with the thought of being in the dentist’s chair (or with the idea of coming face to face with a dental drill), to a paralysing panic attack that prevents them from concentrating on anything else prior to the actual dental visit.
Dental phobia or dental anxiety is much more than just being uncomfortable with the idea of going to the dentist; it is a serious condition that needs to be addressed and dealt with in the most effective manner, so that the person suffering from dental phobia or dental anxiety can start getting the necessary dental health care without having to go through a terrifying anxiety attack every single time a dental visit is required.
What Causes Dental Anxiety and Phobia?
There are various reasons why people feel dental anxiety or dental phobia; some of the most common causes include:
Pain (or the Fear of Pain) – Pain, or the fear of experiencing pain, is the leading cause of dental anxiety. No one wants to be exposed to a painful or uncomfortable situation, and even the idea of going through a painful treatment can cause a person to have severe anxiety attacks. The pain may be perceived (from hearing about the dental treatment experiences of other people), or may come from personal previous experiences with dental treatments.
Embarrassment – It can be embarrassing to open the mouth and show the whole oral cavity and especially if the teeth have been neglected and are not in perfect health. People who are conscious of how their teeth look like may feel even more uncomfortable and embarrassed about having their teeth thoroughly examined; hearing negative comments about poor dental health from the dentist can also be a cause for embarrassment. The truth is that an experienced dentist is accustomed to seeing such situations and should be very understanding and conscientious.
Fear of the Unknown/Helplessness – Facing an unknown or unfamiliar situation can cause anxiety attacks. If one does not have the necessary information about a dental treatment – and what the dental treatment involves – it can be easy to feel anxious, afraid, or helpless about the whole situation. The feeling of helplessness can also come from being “at the mercy” of the dentist on the dental chair, with the mouth wide open and not being able to see what is being done throughout the whole treatment’s duration.
Previous Experiences – A previously uncomfortable, painful, or embarrassing experience with going to the dentist (or going for a dental treatment) can play a huge role in the development of dental anxiety. When a person has, for example, previously experienced a painfully traumatic tooth extraction, that experience can stay on his mind for a long time – and can lead him or her to believe that all tooth extractions he may have to undergo in the future will have the same traumatic effect. Dental anxiety can then result from the idea of having to go through the same terrifying experience all over again.
Dental Anxiety and Embarrassment
Embarrassment is closely linked to, and may even be one of the reasons for, dental phobia or dental anxiety. A person may feel afraid or anxious of seeing a dentist and showing teeth that have not been properly taken care of – the embarrassment of getting a long-drawn out lecture from the dentist about neglected dental health care may be enough to increase a person’s anxiety level up a few notches. Embarrassment can also be felt when teeth that have been neglected is set to be examined by the dentist – it is challenging to bare one’s flaws, even if it is to a dental professional.
The feeling of embarrassment and dental anxiety, when combined together, form a vicious cycle that can result to a much bigger concern – neglected or poor dental health. The feeling of being embarrassed can lead a person to delay much-needed dental checkups; in extreme cases, embarrassment can even lead to stop going for dental checkups altogether. Dental anxiety, especially when combined with embarrassment, may become powerful and paralysing enough to stop one from getting the necessary dental health care in the most effective, and most timely, manner.
There is no need to be embarrassed about the state of your dental health; chances are, your dentist has seen a wide range of dental health concerns on his or her patients – and yours will not cause your dentist to cry out in alarm or in panic. Finding a dentist you can communicate with freely will go a long way in easing your concerns of being embarrassed – and can help you take that leap towards taking proper care of your teeth, and your overall dental health so that you can stop the vicious cycle of embarrassment-dental anxiety-poor dental health.
Panic attacks are described as brief periods of intense anxiety, fear, panic, or apprehension; these attacks are usually symptoms of an anxiety disorder. The panic attack commonly starts abruptly in a random manner – or may also be triggered when a person is exposed to a stimulus that causes him or her to feel anxious or afraid. A panic attack may reach its peak within 10 minutes, and can subside gradually within a few hours; in extreme cases, a panic attack can last for a few days, causing the sufferer to stop productivity and normal activities during this time frame.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack?
The following are the most common symptoms and signs associated with the onset of a panic attack:
- Chest pain or a general feeling of discomfort in the chest area – this symptom makes sufferers think that they are going to have a heart attack
- Palpitations, racing heartbeat, a pounding heart
- Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, or the feeling of being smothered
- Nausea, lightheadedness, or dizziness
- A need to escape
- Chills or hot flashes
- Upset stomach
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands
- Shaking or trembling
- Cold sweat
- Nervousness about doing something embarrassing
- A feeling of losing control
- A paralysing sense of fear or intense terror
Common Fears Associated with Dental Anxiety/Dental Phobia
Fear of the Dentist – Fear of the dentist can come from previously negative experiences. When you have been to a dentist who was did not have a particularly compassionate or caring attitude, it may be easy for you to assume that all other dentists are the same – and you may develop a fear of all dentists in general.
Pain – The fear of pain, or even anxiety that comes from the perception of pain, is one of the major concerns of those suffering from dental anxiety. The fear of pain can arise from a previously painful or uncomfortable experience during a dental treatment; this experience can stay in the mind for a long time, causing the sufferer from developing an aversion to dental treatments in general. Hearing about other people and their painful experiences with dental treatments can also trigger one’s mind into thinking that he or she will have the same painful experience.
Embarrassment – The fear of being embarrassed may come from a poor dental health condition; the simple act of allowing a dentist to examine your mouth can be the source of acute embarrassment if you know that bad teeth (or swollen gums, or bad breath) will be readily visible.
The Dental Drill – The vibration and noise that comes from the use of a dental drill can be enough to send someone with dental anxiety into a serious panic attack. The perception of pain can also accompany the fear of a dental drill – especially if a previous experience led to pain and discomfort with using a dental drill, in cases when the treatment area has not been successfully numbed prior to the actual treatment.
Needle Fear – Fear of needles may range from a general aversion to the use of needles, to the specific fear of having to experience a dental injection. The fear of needles is very closely related to the fear of experiencing pain, since the dental anxiety sufferer’s notion is that the use of needles/injections can cause a great amount of pain and discomfort.
Fear of the Sounds, Smells, and Sights of a Dental Office/Treatment – The specific smell that is associated with dental practices (most commonly the smell of eugenol or oil of cloves) may trigger memories of previously bad experiences with other dental practices; the sights and sounds of the dental equipment and gadgets used in a dental office can also be associated with uncomfortable or painful experiences that may in turn trigger panic attacks.
Losing Control – The fear of losing control while in “the mercy” of the dentist on a dental chair can cause someone with dental anxiety to avoid getting dental treatments done; this is especially true for individuals who have a need to always be in control of the situations they are in. The fear of losing control may come from previously negative experiences with the dentists, or with having to face an unknown situation (an unfamiliar dental treatment).
Fear of Panic Attacks – Panic attacks can be terrifying and traumatic episodes, and those who have experienced them may be even more fearful of placing themselves in situations that can trigger these paralysing situations.
Brushing Teeth – For some people, the simple act of brushing teeth can trigger bad dental treatment experiences – causing them to avoid doing what should be a part of an essential daily routine. Concerns about brushing teeth may also arise from gag reflex problems, or from not liking the taste of toothpaste products.
Gagging – A sensitive gag reflex can make it very difficult for a person to get the dental treatment he or she needs. The gagging can be due to physiological or psychological factors (or both); the gagging reflex can be stronger when combined with a feeling of anxiety, and the fear of not being able to breathe properly while a dental treatment is being undertaken.
Choking – The fear of choking can some from a previous near-choking or actual choking experience; this fear is magnified even more with the idea that there is loss of control when a dental treatment is being done, or when the dentist’s tools are inside the mouth.
Numbness – The numb feeling that is necessary for certain dental treatments can trigger a feeling of fear for some individuals, who may feel that they are losing control of the numb parts – not being able to feel anything can be a weird or terrifying experience for some. On the other hand, the inability to achieve numbness can also be a concern, as some people may think that they will still be able to feel pain even when anaesthesia is administered.
Making a Fool of Oneself/Crying – Related to the fear of embarrassment or losing control, some dental anxiety sufferers have a fear of crying uncontrollably in response to a dental treatment – and are afraid of making fools of themselves.
Negative Reaction to Local Anaesthesia – Allergies and negative reactions to anaesthetics, especially those that have previously been experienced, can cause a person to be fearful of going through the same experience all over again.
Fear of Being Awake (During Dental Treatment) – The idea of being knocked out cold and staying asleep throughout the duration of a dental treatment may make the experience easier to bear, so the notion of being awake – and experiencing all of the uncomfortable sensations – during the dental treatment can be a source of fear.
Extensive Treatment – Some people (especially those who have consciously avoided dentists for a long period of time) are afraid of having to go through more extensive treatments after a specific dental treatment is done. A fear of hearing a serious diagnosis, and the need for even more treatments, can prevent a person with dental anxiety from going to the dentist in the first place.
Unnecessary Treatment – This is the fear of having to undergo treatments that are not really deemed necessary for a dental concern, or making matters even worse with dental treatments.
Cost – The high cost that is perceived to be associated with getting good dental health care may cause dental anxiety patients to feel apprehensive with going for a dental checkup (or dental treatment) in the first place.
Special Needs/Concerns – Those with special needs, such as severe medical conditions, learning or physical disabilities, or psychological concerns, may find it difficult to go through the effort of going to the dentist for dental treatment. Finding a dentist who is qualified in treating the specific special need/concern will go a long way in making the whole experience much more rewarding.
Previous Abuse Experience – People who have experienced abuse of any kind (physical, psychological, or verbal) from a dentist may find it very difficult to trust dentists again – even if they are dealing with a different dentist this time around. The traumatic experience may lead a person to avoid going to the dentist altogether, to ensure that the abuse will not be repeated in any way possible.
The Charles Linden Method for Treating Panic and Anxiety Attacks
Charles Linden used to suffer from acute panic and anxiety attacks, OCD, and agoraphobia. He spent a long period of time (during childhood and adulthood) going to hypnotherapists, psychologists, alternative therapists, and doctors in his quest to lead a better quality of life; sedatives and antidepressants were a part of his daily life, but he discovered that the drugs were successful only in masking the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. His quest for a true answer to panic attack problems led him to develop the Charles Linden Method.
The Charles Linden Method is a programme that has successfully eliminated panic attacks, anxiety attacks, OCD, and agoraphobia for hundreds of thousands of patients. Through his own experiences and research, Charles Linden came up with a solution to high anxiety conditions based on both physiological and psychological principles. The Charles Linden Method is the only technique to utilise the human body’s own anxiety “OFF” switch to effectively eliminate anxiety and panic attacks.
Charles Linden Method on iPhone, iPad, and iPod
Now dealing with panic attacks and anxiety attacks can be done effectively on the go, wherever you are – with the Charles Linden Method iPhone, iPad, and iPod Applications. The Linden Method Apps make it possible for people suffering from panic and anxiety attacks to get the help that they need whenever and wherever necessary. The Linden Method apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod aim to reach out to even more people from all over the world, who want to control their panic and anxiety attacks, and lead a much better quality of life.
Available on iTunes, the Linden Method Cure Anxiety App includes the following:
• The Linden Method anxiety elimination program – Charles Linden leads the way to recovery in video segments that are easy to watch and learn from
• The Panic Eliminator – An easy to use device to stop panic and high anxiety from turning into full-blown attacks
• The Panic Attack TalkDown – Stop panic attacks before they take hold
• BreatheRight – A simple and convenient device to slow anxious breathing, helping you to relax
• The AnxietySTOP Watch – A powerful device which aims to calm you wherever you are
• The Journey out of… Series covering – Agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD, Depersonalization, Derealization
• Visualization exercises to relax you in times of high anxiety and stress
• Junior version audio tracks for young people aged 7-14
Paul McKenna iPhone and iPad Apps for Overcoming Dental Phobia
Paul McKenna is a world-renowned self-help author who has successfully helped millions of people with losing weight, increasing self-confidence, eliminating stress, overcoming phobias and insomnia, and quitting the smoking habit. Paul McKenna is Britain’s best-selling non-fiction author, and his live appearances and TV shows have reached out to millions of viewers from 42 countries from all over the world.
Paul McKenna makes it possible to overcome dental phobia whenever and wherever you are, through the iPhone and iPad apps. Those who suffer from an intense fear of going to the dentist for dental treatments will benefit from the Paul McKenna method, which aims to re-programme the mind (in much the same way a computer can be re-programmed). The iPad apps will have the same content available on the iPhone apps, with more enhanced features that make it easier to maximise the bigger iPad screen.
Dealing with Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety is not something that can just be ignored; instead, this condition should be given the utmost importance to ensure that effective management is achieved – for a much better dental health condition in the long run. There are various ways to manage and deal with dental anxiety, and here are some of the options available for dental anxiety sufferers to choose from:
Finding the Right Dentist – Finding the right dentist can work wonders in the management of dental anxiety. It is important to have a dentist who understands your concerns about dental anxiety, someone who can help in easing your fears and apprehensions while giving you the dental health care that you need at the same time. A dentist who will readily listen to your anxiety concerns and fears will be able to give you the support and help that you need to be able to overcome debilitating dental fear.
Good communication with the dentist is the key to successful dental anxiety management. You can ask around for recommendations about dentists who are good with treating patients with dental anxiety or dental phobia concerns; the search can also be done through the This is Dentistry website – which will enable you to do a search on your local area for dentists who specialise in nervous patients.
Sedation – Sedation makes it possible for you to have the dental treatment that you need without having to endure an anxiety attack; this is because the sedatives help you to achieve a relaxed state of mind, making it easier for the dentist to do the necessary dental work in the process. Conscious sedation will put you in a state of mind wherein you will have no worries or anxiety throughout the duration of the dental treatment, but keeps you conscious throughout the entire time so that you can follow any instructions or requests that the dentist may have for you. Sedation may be given:
• orally (in the form of a tablet);
• through inhalation (a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide), or
• intravenously (through an IV tube).
A qualified anaesthetist will be the one to administer the sedative for conscious sedation, to ensure that the procedure is perfectly safe and free from any complications. The effects of the sedative are expected to wear off for 30 minutes to a few hours after the procedure, and it is recommended that you ask someone to take you home after the dental treatment or procedure is finished (to ensure your safety).
Psychological Techniques – Psychological techniques can also be used to manage or deal with dental anxiety. Some of the psychological techniques that can be used are:
• Dental Hypnosis – Dental hypnosis or hypnotherapy can help you relax and better deal with your dental anxiety or dental phobia – so that you can go through the dental treatment that you need without succumbing to a panic attack.
• Distraction Techniques – Distraction techniques are used to take the attention away from the dental treatment that needs to be done; the distraction can also help achieve a more relaxed state of mind. Some of the distraction techniques can be in the form of listening to music, watching a video or DVD, thinking and planning about an event or something pleasant that you look forward to doing, or concentrating on relaxing your body one body part at a time.
• Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a combination of cognitive therapy (dealing with your thinking processes), and behavioural therapy (your behavioural responses to your thinking processes). CBT is a “talking therapy” – a CBT practitioner will talk you through identifying the problem areas so you can decide on the areas that need to be dealt with. Common CBT techniques that are used for the management of dental phobias and dental anxiety include problem solving, the replacement of negative beliefs with alternative (more positive) ones, and the development of coping skills.
Need someone to talk to about your dental anxiety or dental phobia concerns? Why not contact our Expert Dental Advisors for a chat or advice?
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