Fear can be debilitating. It can consume the imagination, building a strong case for avoiding a certain person, place, or action. This process is helpful at times. Fear of getting a speeding ticket, for example, may impact your behavior and cause you to drive with caution. Other times, fear can be misplaced and extremely hazardous. Fear of health problems, hospitals, or health professionals represents just three instances when fear may cause individuals to compromise their long term health, causing more harm than good.
Comments by Dr. Ted Herrmann:
Miami dentists often face the problem of dispelling the fears that many patients hold when it comes to present day dentistry. The biggest problem that arises out of irrational fear is the behavior it produces. Fear is a strong motivator that leads individuals to avoid that which they perceive to be uncomfortable or unknown. As we will explore, it is this avoidance that leads to prolonged periods away from the dentist office and corresponding health concerns.
Dentists: More Feared than Snakes, Spiders, and Heights
The British Dental Health Foundation conducted dental health study last month, polling over 1,000 individuals and asking them to rate several listed items in terms of the fear and anxiety they produce. That list included snakes, spiders, heights, and of course, dentists.
The results are staggering. Nearly 1 in 5 adults indicated that visiting the dentist evokes more fear and anxiety than any other item on the survey (i). Most interestingly, individuals were 10 times more likely to fear the dentist than their general doctor (ii). At first glance, these numbers may seem inaccurate. After all, general doctors administer injections, blood tests, and other procedures that inflict a considerable amount of pain. The results of the British survey are sensible, however, when one considers the nature of the mouth. Home to thousands of highly sensitive taste buds and nerve endings, the mouth is a very personal and intimate area that many individuals feel obligated to protect with greater resolve, both consciously and unconsciously.
Miami Dentistry and Education
The primary reason for these misguided fears about the visiting the dentist date back to early dentistry. In early times, dental professionals lacked many of the advanced tools and anesthetics that add comfort to nearly all procedures in the present day. One of the most common misconceptions is the pain associated with dental procedures. Many patients fear that excruciating amounts of pain will be inflicted on the teeth and gums during procedures. In reality, however, most procedures inflict only a slight pinch from locally administered anesthetic. After the anesthetic circulates through the gums, the area is effectively numbed and void of sensation.
The best way for dental professionals to combat these long held fears about dentistry is to promote dental education and awareness with patients. As it stands, many patients lack the knowledge to properly care for and preserve their teeth. To make matters worse, many patients avoid even simple dental checkups for fear of discovering a cavity or another condition that may require a corrective procedure. This keeps patients from visiting dental professionals regularly, increasing the likelihood that plaque will spread, tooth enamel will be compromised, and serious corrective procedures will be necessary.
To reverse this process, patients must first be educated on the technology available to dentists today. Leading tools like Waterlase dentistry, for example, pair water and laser technologies to effectively remove plaque while inflicting only a mild vibrating sensation. Minimally invasive plaque detection techniques are becoming more common, as well, and tools like the DIAGNODent Laser are making it easier for professionals to conduct nearly painless examinations. Additionally, anesthetics like Novocain are extremely effective in numbing soft gum tissue to eliminate the sensation of pain during most dental procedures.
Many professional organizations recognize this problem and have made strong commitments to spreading dental awareness. In general, these organizations aim to use dental education as a means of reducing the fear and anxiety most individuals have in regard to most procedures. The American Association of Endodontists, for example, recently concluded Root Canal Awareness Week, an national outreach program geared towards reversing the misconception that root canals are painful procedures.
Dental Appointments: More is More
Dentists must help patients overcome their fears and keep regular appointments to maintain oral health. Ongoing dental education is key in helping patients overcome their dental fears, and Assure a Smile takes pride in building patient relations to achieve this end. The Miami Dentist Blog is just one means we use to keep patients informed on the latest dentistry news and issues. Patients may also interact with the Dentist305 Twitter account to submit questions, follow new articles, and stay up to date on current dental news and research!
Most importantly, patients must schedule regular dental appointments to stay on top of their oral health and address problems before they lead to serious illness.
(ii) See above.