Our kids are lucky to live in a time where dental care of the highest quality is available and performed by people who are meticulous and mindful of their patients’ needs. Indeed, today’s dentists truly understand and care about their patients and the attainment of quality results. No longer are dentists the “tooth pullers” of bygone days that scared our grandparents or even our parents.
Nowadays, dentists are not be feared. They are not here to hurt or harm us – quite the opposite. If our parents and grandparents had received today’s advanced dental care, far less of them would have dentures and none would be scared of going to the dentist.
Avoid feeding into your child’s fears
Some parents automatically link the dentist to pain because that’s what they learned from their own parents. This stems from a time where there was little to no anaesthesia available at the dentist’s office – and that belief then got passed on to their children.
Staff knows how to talk to fearful children
Rest assured – dentists use common, simple words to explain to kids what their instruments do and what is being done to their mouth. They speak in reassuring tones so as not to fluster fearful children. They sometimes even tell stories as distraction from the work being done.
Dental hygienists and assistants are well-equipped to talk about dental treatments and procedures using simple and accessible terms. It is important to let the staff members explain to children how their appointment is going to go. They are trained to reassure their patients – young and old – throughout their visit.
Tips to control children’s fears
- It would be unwise for you to share your bad experiences with your children. They will come into their appointment feeling tense and apprehensive, which will impede the staff’s work.
- Remember that children love to mimic what adults do. For your child’s first visit, book your own annual exam right before theirs. They will get to see how a dental appointment goes before it’s their turn.
- Get your young children to take their favourite doll or stuffed animal with them. They will be more comfortable having a “friend” with them.
- Show your enthusiasm leading up to the appointment but mainly, avoid sharing details of a procedure (e.g. the injection) with them.
- Get your anxious older children and teens to bring their favourite music to listen to on their phone or other device during their treatment.
Dental phobia in adults
Fear of the dentist in adults is more common in women than in men throughout all age groups. We’ve also found that more than half of anxious patients are smokers.
Someone suffering from this kind of phobia will do anything to avoid going to the dentist. In 10% of cases, dental treatment occurs at the last possible moment, when pain finally becomes unbearable. If the fear prevents proper follow-up, the patient’s mouth might require several procedures.
Dr. Markus Shulte, Swiss dentist, says: “For about 30% of our patients, dental anxiety comes from traumatizing experiences that occurred in childhood, such as painful treatments and insensitive dentists. Another third of patients cite the frightening stories their own parents told them as the source of their fear.”
The main causes of dental fear
Patients who are prone to dental anxiety often react to sensory-based things:
- The sound of the dental bur, or drill: the high shrill of the motor-powered rotation can cause panic attacks in those who suffer from dental phobia.
- The smell of a dental office: the familiar smell of eugenol, a substance extracted from clove oil that is used in dental medicine and cements, can cause anxiety attacks.
- The sight of the dentist’s white coat and tools: seeing the staff’s uniforms and dental instruments can stimulate a conditioned response of anxiety.
How to spot patients who have dental phobia
Whether because they’re ashamed or don’t want to admit they’re afraid, a lot of patients don’t want to appear as cowards once they’re sitting in the dentist’s chair. When that is the case, the dentist is faced with the challenge of having to identify anxious patients, which is done using a variety of methods:
- Questionnaire: all new patients have to fill out a form which contains questions on their health but also on the extent of any potential dental fear.
- Dialogue: an experienced dentist can normally tell if a patient suffers from anxiety during their very first conversation.
- Behaviour during the treatment:
- Body language, positioning on the chair and fidgeting hands and feet
- Frequently asking to rinse their mouth, thereby interrupting treatment
- Gagging, feeling nauseous or swallowing excessively
- Abondant forehead perspiration, also known as nervous sweating.
Are there risks to laughing gas use?
When mixed with oxygen, nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”, allows very nervous people to go into the medical treatment feeling relaxed while still being awake. There are no health risks to this sedation method. The sedative agent is completely eliminated from the body after the treatment, which means that even small children can benefit from its use.
That being said, there are a few contraindications to laughing gas use:
- Pregnancy: is not to be used within the first 3 months of pregnancy
- Severe emphysema with chronic bronchitis
- B12 vitamin deficiency
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
Is hypnosis useful?
Some people deal with their dental anxiety using hypnosis. When sitting comfortably in the chair of a dentist who’s been trained in hypnotherapy, all you need to do is let yourself be guided by their voice. You’ll find yourself feeling rested and reassured and in a state of well-being in no time. This alternative method allows for a reduction of fear and anxiety with or without the use of painkillers.
Tips for adults
- Understanding where your fear comes from makes it easier to overcome.
- Have a friend come with you to your appointment. Talk about things that you like or make you laugh.
- Before an appointment, try relaxation. Yoga can help you stay calm and keep stress at bay.
- If you can, walk to your appointment. A brisk walk helps many relieve anxiety.
- If you’ve managed to make yourself feel better during a dentist’s appointment, reward yourself afterwards.
Solutions at our clinic
At Dr. David Côté Dental Clinic, we use dialogue and reassuring information to control our patients’ anxiety. However, we do on occasion provide Ativan (lorazepam) for patients to take orally when extracting wisdom teeth, but it is rather rare.
Do you suffer from a real fear of dentists? Don’t worry, you are not alone. You can avoid having a hard time if you acknowledge and identify your fear. Do not hesitate to share your concerns with Drs. Martin Dubois or David Côté. They will guide you in order to make your visit a positive and pain-free experience.