Ozark, Missouri – We may joke around about it, but for many people, dentophobia or fear of the dentist, is very real. Are you scared of the dentist, but need treatment? Don’t let that fear keep you from properly maintaining your teeth and gums.
“There are many reasons why patients may be afraid of visiting a dentist,” says Dr. Nick Matthews, part of Barnett-Davis Dental Group, a dental group serving the Ozark area. “For adults, previous negative experiences can affect how they view future encounters. Perhaps previous dental treatment resulted in excess pain. Or maybe the patient already suffers from an anxiety disorder, so a visit to the dentist just heightens their apprehension.”
It’s important for a dentist to understand where their patient’s dentophobia may stem from in order to help them overcome it. For children, their fear could actually stem from their parents.
“Some studies suggest that parents actually pass on their fears to their children,” says Dr. Marc Barnett, who along with his wife Kelly, have been dentists in Ozark since 1984. “Mothers especially can increase their child’s fear of the dentist. A child’s dentophobia may also increase if they have a propensity toward fear in general, or if they have had a previous appointment that resulted in pain.”
That’s why the right choice in dentist can be crucial to helping you or your child feel comfortable. Once a doctor is aware of your fear for the dentist, he or she should be willing to work with you to help you overcome that fear. The dentist can be more aware of using pain control and comfort procedures to keep patients comfortable, even during standard teeth cleanings.
“In our office, we take patient comfort very seriously,” says Dr. Kelly Barnett, who also provides beautiful veneers to her patients. “We offer satellite-fed stereo headphones that can offer a distraction to the patient. We also have pillows and blankets available for patients who may wish additional comfort, or for those undergoing longer procedures. We can also talk to patients who are especially apprehensive about the use of nitrous oxide or other relaxing medications.”
It is also important for the patient to be honest about their fear of the dentist. Most dentists will go out of their way to help their patients, but can only do that if they know of the fear beforehand. If you or a member of your family suffer from behavioral, mood or anxiety disorders that could affect how you view the dentist, this is important to know. The dentist will be able to interact properly with the patient, taking into account these underlying issues.
“Our practice serves entire families,” says Dr. Nick Matthews. “We take the time to get to know each member of the family in order to help them feel more comfortable, but also so that we will know how best to interact with them. Everyone is different, and everyone deserves to be treated as an individual. And we work hard to gain the trust of each patient we serve.”
To help you overcome your dentophobia, be sure you choose a dentist who will allow you to voice your concerns, even during a procedure. Knowing that the dentist will listen to you can help patients feel at ease while in the chair.
“Be sure you choose a dentist who explains every procedure to you before beginning,” says Dr. Tracy Davis. “Knowing beforehand what to expect can remove some of the anxiety factor from treatment. We always explain each procedure in terms that patient, or their parent, can easily understand. And all of our patients know that if they need to stop during the treatment, we can take breaks at any time.”
A good dentist will work with you to overcome your dentophobia, whether that be simply by offering a warm and welcoming environment filled with caring staff members, or for more serious cases, using relaxation medication during procedures.
The dentist should always be focused on the individual patient and how best to care for him or her. Having a dentist that is willing to treat you as an individual and take the time to get to know you can go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable in their dental chair. And in turn, you’ll have peace of mind that your oral health is in good hands.