Dentophobia is a fear of dental care, and, by extension, people who provide dental care, such as dentists. This condition is also known as dental fear, odontophobia, or dental anxiety. Surveys estimate that many people suffer from this condition to varying degrees, and fortunately there are an assortment of ways to treat and deal with dental phobia. For people with extreme dentophobia, it is important to seek treatment, as untreated dental conditions can have serious medical repercussions.
There are a number of causes for dentophobia. Many people have traumatic experiences as children which cause them to develop a fear of dentists, for example, and others are simply head shy. Dental work can be stressful, especially when drills are involved, as it is accompanied by strange sensations and sounds, and dental procedures can leave a lingering pain behind. The field of dentistry in general is also often viewed negatively by laymen, who exchange horror stories about dental fears which can breed or exaggerate dentophobia.
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Many dentists are aware of dentophobia, and some even advertise services which are specifically targeted at patients which have this condition. Modern dentists tend to focus on providing very gentle, meticulous care, informing patients about what they plan to do and how they will do it. To address dentophobia, dentists may also lay out a number of options for their patients, explaining various ways to deal with a condition and being frank about pain levels so that patients do not feel deceived.
For patients with extreme dentophobia, trips to the dentist are reserved for dental emergencies, which can actually make the dental fear worse. By only going to the dentist when a problem has become severe, people start to link trips to the dentist with extreme discomfort, thereby making their condition worse. More commonly, people simply feel anxious before going to the dentist, but they still make routine dental care a part of their lives despite the strain; some people address anxiety by taking medications to help them relax before a trip to the dentist.
There are a variety of treatments for dentophobia. Going to a psychologist to talk about therapy options is a good idea, as a psychologist can help get to the root cause. Patients may also engage in meditation and hypnosis to address the problem. Seeking out dentists with a good reputation and being frank with them about dentophobia is also highly recommended, as a dentist who is aware of a patient's anxiety and fear can work to dispel it.