Tooth check: The fear of going to the dentist!

A certain fear of dental treatment is probably inherent in every human being. This is also quite natural, because nobody is happy when the dentist drills on their own teeth. However, if this fear becomes pathological, the expert speaks of dental phobia. There are no exact studies on the frequency of dental phobia. It is estimated that about five to ten percent of people in the western world are affected.

1 A young woman is vehemently reluctant to undergo dental treatment. Today there are some methods for anxiety patients to make the treatment bearable.

From a purely medical point of view, pathological dental phobia is distinguished from non-pathological dental anxiety. The latter only manifests itself in a slight to moderate nervousness, which can be accompanied by sweating, tachycardia and irregular breathing up to hyperventilation. If the fear is exaggerated, the patient can refrain from visiting the dentist at all. Sooner or later this inevitably leads to bad teeth, which make a relaxed smile impossible. This does not have to be the case, because there are ways and means to combat dental anxiety.

Who enters the terms dentist plus its city with Google like for example dentist Homburg or dentist Munich, finds fast practices, which offer also for fear patients special treatment methods.

Causes of dental phobia

All measures to maintain healthy teeth fall into the category of prophylaxis. It is obvious that regular visits to the dentist from childhood lead to fewer dental diseases. Experts see the causes of dental phobia mainly in negative experiences. As each individual tooth has distinct and sensitive nerve cords, toothache is perceived as particularly painful. If a patient has experienced the first pain from the actual dental treatment and not from dental diseases such as tooth decay or periodontosis, this can lead to a learned anxiety which is directed either against dental treatment in general or against partial aspects of dental treatment such as local anaesthesia with a syringe.

In addition, local anaesthesia has developed considerably in dentistry over the last thirty years and is now used in almost every dental treatment. Before the 90s of the last century it was hardly used when the dentist “only” drilled. If the dentist has hit a nerve, this negative experience can lead to an exaggerated fear of visiting the dentist.

Prevention is still better than cure

Anxiety patients find it very difficult to realize that regular visits to the dentist help prevent pain from occurring in the first place. Professional tooth cleaning is one of the most tried and tested methods to significantly reduce tooth decay and thus unpleasant treatments. Prophylaxis, however, starts with oral hygiene at home. The regular and thorough removal of food residues and plaque is important, but is not enough.

A sufficient cleaning of the teeth is not guaranteed by mouthwashes, sprays and mouthwashes alone. The dentist has at his disposal special methods and instruments such as sound or ultrasound, hand instruments and air-powder water jets. Only then can hard deposits, discolorations and soft coatings such as plaque or biofilm be removed. On a European scale, the German population ranks midfield in terms of dental health. According to statistics from the European Commission, only 38 percent of all Germans still have their natural teeth.

Source: own representation

More than half of the people in Malta, Denmark and Sweden still have all their natural teeth.

Treatment methods for dental phobia

Dental phobia is not an incurable mental illness, because it is officially recognised as such, which is why health insurance companies also cover the costs of treatment. Similar to addictions, however, it is necessary for those affected to become active themselves and seek help. One possibility is to treat the dentist’s anxiety with medication. The disadvantage is that the original fear remains. Behavioural therapies that help patients gradually overcome anxiety are better.

Some dental practices also specialize in anxiety patients. They offer various methods that do not eliminate anxiety, but at least allow treatment. For this reason, health insurance companies do not cover the extra costs. The costs for various relaxation methods such as acupuncture or hypnosis as well as for treatment under general anaesthesia or with nitrous oxide must be covered by the patient himself, unless dental phobia has been medically proven.

What affected people can do themselves

  • Go to the dentist accompanied by a trusted person: You don’t like to kiss a mouth with bad teeth. If the partner you love accompanies you to the dentist, it can be a great help. This is especially true for people who find it difficult to recognize and satisfy their own needs, but who are good at reading every wish from others’ lips. In such cases, love for one’s partner can move mountains and help overcome one’s own fear.
  • Inform the dentist about his anxiety: According to § 630e BGB the local anaesthesia is already subject to the duty of the dentist to inform. However, the anxiety patient can also inform the doctor. This enables the dentist to respond even better to the individual needs of the patient and to decide together whether a special treatment method with laughing gas or under general anaesthesia can be considered. Even such profane things as the appointment of a hand signal are quite common when the patient needs a break due to pain.
  • Effective oral and dental care: Once someone has made it to the dentist, they can also seek advice on the subject of dental care at home. Dentists have a great deal of experience in this field and know exactly which products make sense on the market and which do not. In recent years, for example, it has become generally accepted that electric toothbrushes are superior to handbrushes. Your dentist will also be happy to provide you with information about other products such as dental floss, toothpaste or mouthwashes. This also includes tips on healthy nutrition. It is well known that sugar is bad for your teeth. But did you know, for example, that the consumption of spinach, chard or rhubarb can also lead to erosion processes of the teeth due to the high content of oxalic acid in these vegetables? Experts therefore recommend combining rhubarb with quark or yoghurt and spinach with sour cream. The calcium it contains binds the harmful acid.

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Christina Cherry
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