Phobia No more fear of the dentist
There’s the fear of the dentist. It can be so bad that it is pathological. Those affected have to see a psychotherapist – preferably before their teeth rot.
Berlin/Bochum/Stuttgart – Everyone knows them, everyone hates them, everyone wants them to leave quickly. Toothache. And there is the fear of the dentist. It can be so bad that it is pathological and even worse than toothache. This panic before the visit to the dentist is also called dental or odontophobia. Questions and answers about a widespread mental disorder.
What is dental phobia?
In the beginning it throbs and pinches only very slightly, then stronger and stronger. If the pain becomes too great and neither household remedies nor painkillers help, the visit to the dentist can no longer be postponed. Nobody likes going to the dentist. But a real dental phobia goes far beyond that. “With a tooth treatment phobia concerned do not appear at all at all in the practice and often over many years , say Peter J?hren, specialist dentist for Oralchirurgie and director of the dental clinic Bochum. This phobia – an exaggerated fear of something – almost always leads to years of avoiding dental treatment.
How many people are affected in Germany?
According to the Federal Dental Association (BZÄK), five to ten percent of people in Germany suffer from dental phobia. This is a psychosomatic anxiety disorder. People affected by the disease panic when they even think of visiting a dentist. “That can express itself for example in the form of outbreaks of sweat, tachycardia, dizziness and circulatory problems”, explains Thomas Wolf. He is a senior physician at the Clinic for Restorative Dentistry, Preventive Dentistry and Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Bern.
What causes these massive fears?
There are several possible causes of anxiety. “Often it is the pain experienced before, during and after dental treatment that leads to avoidance in affected patients,” explains Jöhren. In one study, 86 percent of patients said that they had experienced traumatic experiences in the dental chair – 70 percent in their childhood.
What can affected persons do?
After all, simply not going is not an option: inflamed teeth that remain untreated for a longer period of time can have fatal consequences – not to mention the pain. “Serious acute and chronic diseases are possible,” emphasizes BZÄK Vice President Dietmar Oesterreich. Thus bacteria can penetrate beyond the attacked tooth deeply into the jaw bones. The blood circulation can lead to a sometimes life-threatening inflammation in the body.
How does the dentist treat anxiety patients?
According to Jöhrens, the patient’s self-assessment is the first step. A special questionnaire is used to determine the extent and severity of the anxiety. This is followed by a detailed consultation, which is intended to gradually build up a basis of trust between dentist and patient.
What happens in an emergency when treatment cannot be postponed?
So you can’t do it without treating the phobia. “But this is not the job of dentists, but of trained psychotherapists,” says Wolf. In the case of acute pain, which makes dental therapy impossible to postpone, the anxiety patient can be placed under sedation or general anesthesia if necessary. “A general anaesthesia should only be carried out, however, if the treatment is acutely necessary,” explains Oesterreich. This is because the phobia is not overcome – and therefore not the problem behind it.
Is psychotherapy necessary?
Ultimately, only a psychotherapist can find the right way out of the phobia with the patient. Patients can, for example, undergo so-called anti-anxiety training. Patients are gently introduced to the situation at the dentist by a therapist. “At the first meeting it is important to use information and empathy to rebuild the patient’s trust in the dentist, which is often lost,” explains Jöhren.
How should the dentist treat anxiety patients?
The doctor should sensitively inquire about the patient’s wishes and write them down so that they are not forgotten during the treatment. “Some patients find it helpful to listen to their favourite music through headphones during treatment or simply to relax in the background,” Wolf explains.
How can dental treatment and psychotherapeutic care complement each other?
Nowadays, modern methods generally make painless dental treatment possible. “In order for psychotherapy to be successful in the long term, it is crucial that the patient does not have any bad experiences during dental treatment,” emphasises Jöhren. The oral surgeon warns that even the smallest breach of the agreements between therapist, dentist or patient can lead to renewed defensive behaviour. “The promise of painless treatment must never be broken.”