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Bad teeth due to fear of the dentist: what can sufferers do?
Missing prophylactic treatments often lead to toothache in anxious patients! (© dulezidar_) Current, representative studies have shown that 80 – 98% of the western population feel at least a feeling of nervousness and tension during the dental treatment. 20% of Germans can even be classified as extremely fearful. The uncomfortable feeling of anxiety increases when a syringe is to be placed or when those affected perceive the shrill sound of the drill or the sterile smell of the treatment rooms. Sometimes even when you are thinking about the upcoming dentist appointment. This fear often means that appointments are always postponed and the need for treatment increases. A painful and fearful vicious cycle begins, which puts the patient in an apparently insurmountable position.
Anxiety patients postpone treatments for too long!
The avoidance behavior and the fear of restoring the teeth in need of therapy ultimately lead to acute pain, for example due to a purulent abscess, the so-called "thick cheek". Since pain pills will eventually no longer remedy the situation, those affected ultimately go to a dentist’s office or introduce themselves to the emergency service.
The more inflamed the tooth, the less effective local anesthesia shows – the treatment is under tension or is even painful and reinforces the fear of the already anxious patient.
In addition, in such emergency situations it is difficult or impossible to develop an interpersonal relationship or the necessary feeling of trust with the practitioner. It is therefore not surprising that the affected person does not plan to return to a dental practice shortly after his emergency treatment.
Despite the latest technology, innovative treatment methods and complete prophylaxis measures, the prevalence of dental treatment fears and the associated need for action remains enormous for a large part of the population. However, solutions are unfortunately still far too rarely offered and often the practices lack the time or dexterity to adequately address an anxious patient and his individual needs and concerns.
The last resort always seems to be treatment under general anesthesia. Total refurbishment of anxious patients under general anesthesia or sedation has become one of the most common therapeutic concepts in German dental practices – a psychologically frightening development!
Treatment under anesthesia
Treatments under general anesthesia or sedation are apparently the trend! (© 1031405- Dawna Martinez) Although today’s anesthetic procedures are now considered safe, there are still incidents and side effects. Depending on the patient’s health, there are even considerable risks that speak against anesthesia without medical need.
Apart from that, this method is very controversial in psychological circles and is often criticized. It is said to be unsuitable for actually providing long-term help to the patient.
Total refurbishment under general anesthesia only temporarily removes the patient’s dental problems and thus only treats symptoms instead of eliminating the cause. The real problem, which is of a mental nature, is only postponed and goes unnoticed. After such treatment, many patients are even convinced that they will have any further treatment in their life under general anesthesia.
No dentures and no fillings last forever – especially not if check-ups and prophylaxis sessions are avoided again – and so new defects are inevitable. The vicious cycle goes into the next round or the problem is "overslept" again.
What are the alternatives??
The goal is to treat fear first and then the tooth. The most recognized methods are the hypnosis procedure and stimulus confrontation techniques in the sense of a gentle conversation and relaxation therapy.
The five-session program according to Wannemüller
The five-session program according to Wannemüller (2015) enables the patient to overcome his fear easily, individually and in a targeted manner. The Wannemüller concept can be carried out by a therapist or a trained dentist. The patient frees himself from his fears within the program and only then enters the treatment room – without fear and with confidence.
The success rate of this behavioral therapy of more than 75% suggests that dentists should take a new course. In the future, they should "put their patients to sleep" less and instead deal significantly more with the topic of adequate anxiety management.
Do not give up on yourself, your oral health and your quality of life and find out about methods of coping with anxiety!
This article is for general information only, not for self-diagnosis, and is not a substitute for a doctor’s visit. It reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of jameda GmbH.
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