Human beings fear a large variety of things and each type of fear, as well as its intensity, is subject to every individual’s own life experiences. However, sometimes, these fears can be irrational and are created by the brain through the experiences and opinions of others. Odontophobia is one such type of irrational fear. In both the above cases, fear limits an individual physically as well as psychologically from certain activities that are necessary or add value to life.
Some people fear certain animals, some fear heights, some fear ghosts, etc. These types of fear are either due to some bad past experiences or irrational fear of something bad that can happen due to exposure to them. You might have heard the term “Phobia” and different complicated names assigned to different fears.
In the medical world as well, fear is a common phenomenon. The complicated terminology, technical machinery, intimidating lab coats and thousands of weird instruments that look like the devil’s weapons can surely create a level of anxiety and fear among common people. The most common one you might have heard is the fear of the “sui” (syringe needle).
However, this basic anxiety and curiosity relating to treatments can accelerate into some bigger problems. Fears related to treatments can be a problem when health is hampered due to it.
What is Odontophobia?
Odontophobia is a type of fear associated with dentists and dental treatments. The patient has a fear of dentists or dental treatments due to past bad experiences or due to irrational thoughts.
Why is Odontophobia a Problem for the Patient?
The problem can be that this leads a patient to try to ignore his health or treatments and hamper their own health which can be restored. Similarly, in dentistry, a patient with dental problems that can be restored with proper care at proper timings doesn’t attend to his dental treatment needs due to Odontophobia.
Why is Odontophobia a Problem for the Dentist?
It might lead to discomfort as well as disturbance during the treatment which can limit the dentist from working freely and to their full potential.
Symptoms of Odontophobia
- A patient shows hesitance in sharing their oral problems.
- Postponing dental appointments for no valid reason.
- Being nervous during an appointment.
- Not letting the doctor work with ease during the treatment.
- Trying to stop the treatment midway during a procedure.
- Always anxious about the next action of the dentist.
- Avoiding their dental problems as much as possible.
- Using allopathic medications such as painkillers to relieve dental pain instead of visiting a dentist.
So What Can be Done?
Contradictory to the common belief, fears are conditioned responses. What does that mean?
Fears are responses that are learnt and are not inborn. If you have had a bad experience in the past or your brain created this fear, it was learnt by the brain and doesn’t exist right from birth. Hence, they can be unlearned too.
How Can Odontophobia be Managed?
- As mentioned in the symptoms above, the most common symptom of Odontophobia is hesitancy about explicitly expressing your dental problems.
- In such scenarios, the dentist should be adequately prepared to deal with such situations and gain appropriate insight regarding the condition.
- Counselling of the patient needs to be done. The patient should be casually asked about past dental experiences or their worries related to it.
- The dentist should ensure that the patient feels comfortable and all queries must be resolved beforehand.
- Before the treatment starts, the patient should be thoroughly familiarized with the entire diagnosis, the cause, the entire steps of the treatment plan, and the levels of pain and discomfort the patient might experience.
- Audio-visual demonstrations or testimonials by other patients can aid in lessening the patient’s dental anxiety.
- The patient should be assured at all times about the safety of the procedure.
How Can Odontophobia be Eradicated Among the General Public?
In order to lessen the general phobia or curiosity related to dental treatments, oral health awareness camps and counselling sessions should be conducted in public.
Therefore, fears are something not to be worried about! Do not let your fear limit your health.