Do You Have Dental Jit­ters?

Ex­plor­ing the causes and ways to get over it

Wellness Update - - Organ Donation -

Dental pho­bia or dental fear af­fects an es­ti­mated 30 to 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, that’s roughly 9 to 13 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. That’s a lot of peo­ple who avoid reg­u­lar dental check-ups and needed treat­ment for sev­eral years or even decades be­cause of a deepseeded fear of the den­tist. Only when an in­di­vid­ual is faced with a dental emer­gency or un­bear­able pain will they break down and with great trep­i­da­tion visit a den­tist.

For more than 30 years, I have ob­served and worked with peo­ple who fear the den­tist. I have found that most peo­ple fear the den­tist be­cause of mis­per­cep­tions about treat­ment, fear of pain, and fear of the un­known. Nat­u­rally, peo­ple will do ev­ery­thing in their power to avoid a fear­ful sit­u­a­tion, even if it com­pro­mises their health.

How­ever, there are sev­eral cop­ing mech­a­nisms and meth­ods to con­trol anx­i­ety and fear as­so­ci­ated with go­ing to the den­tist. With pa­tience, trust, and be­hav­ioral ther­apy, dental pho­bic in­di­vid­u­als will reach a point where they will be able to con­trol their fear and get on track with restor­ing and main­tain­ing good oral health.

The fol­low­ing meth­ods are what I rec­om­mend to peo­ple who have dental pho­bia and want to get over it:

1– It’s very im­por­tant that you talk to your den­tist or po­ten­tial den­tist to make sure they are aware of your pho­bia and they have the time and de­sire to work with you on over­com­ing your fear. If nec­es­sary, you may even ask your den­tist if he or she would be will­ing to meet in a non-clin­i­cal/neu­tral set­ting to dis­cuss your fears, such as the re­cep­tion room or busi­ness of­fice.

2– Avoid­ing stim­u­lants such as caf­feine is an ef­fec­tive way to min­i­mize jit­ters and ag­i­ta­tion. I ad­vise peo­ple to avoid caf­feine at least six hours prior to dental treat­ment.

3– When you go in for your treat­ment, you may want to cre­ate a sig­nal to in­di­cate to your den­tist to tem­po­rar­ily stop treat­ment. This will help you feel more in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

4– Fold­ing your hands over your stom­ach can help you feel re­as­sur­ance if you are anx­ious while in the dental chair.

5– Try eat­ing protein prior to go­ing to a dental ap­point­ment. This will help re­duce any feel­ings of hunger while in the dental chair.

6– A really good tech­nique to calm your­self down be­fore and dur­ing a dental ap­point­ment is to fo­cus on calm steady breath­ing. Fear can some­times lead peo­ple to ei­ther hold their breath or breathe too rapidly.

7– An­other ef­fec­tive method of re­duc­ing dental pho­bia is oral and in­tra­venous se­da­tion while un­der­go­ing treat­ment. How­ever, this is only a tem­po­rary method and avoids the is­sue of longterm fear. It can be a method to al­low the den­tist to get your ur­gent dental needs un­der con­trol while you work on de­vel­op­ing your cop­ing skills.

8– For chil­dren, the key is have their first dental ap­point­ment by six months of age so they be­gin to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the dental of­fice. Their first visit should not be for an emer­gency as this could trau­ma­tize them and set the stage for fu­ture fears.

If none of th­ese tech­niques work to help re­lieve dental pho­bia, I en­cour­age peo­ple to seek out fear re­duc­tion ther­apy with a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist or other men­tal health pro­fes­sional. I have found that many pa­tients who have mas­tered cop­ing skills, ei­ther on their own or with the guid­ance of a psy­chol­o­gist have built the con­fi­dence they needed to start see­ing their den­tist reg­u­larly with­out the aid of seda­tive agents. -Ron­ald S. Mito, DDS, FDS, RCSEd, UCLA School of Den­tistry

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