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Ask the dentist: Are you afraid of the dentist?


About one-third of people experience Dentophobia or a fear of the dentist. This could stem from childhood trauma, or maybe just not having a relationship with the Dentist. It is recommended your child start seeing the Dentist every six months from the time they are 1 year of age to build a healthy connection of being at a dental office. Starting happy visits from an early age prevents problems from arising in the future because knowledge about your child’s oral health is shared during these visits. No work is usually being done at happy visits; therefore, it helps the child to know the dentist is not a scary place.

When it comes to fear of the dentist, like many other phobias, it generally starts as a child and progresses well into adulthood.

Take fear of the dark, no one has to have a bad experience, but many children are afraid, yet many other children may have no problem with it and turn it into a game. Often times children don’t see the dentist until they are 5 and by then, they could have a mouth full of decay. This can be the start of Dentophobia, because of the multiple trips to the dental office for fillings, or even extractions depending on the level of decay.

Another key factor we see in children’s fear of the dentist is how the parents act during the visit, when the parent is being overbearing and acting as if what the dentist is doing is hurting, then the child is going to feed into those feelings and become unpleasant and uncooperative. When the parents don’t worry the child with words such as pain or needles, they usually ask questions that may allow the dentist to proceed with treatment.

As adults dealing with dental anxiety, there are ways of coping. Much like children, frequent dental visits and getting to know your dentist can help ease your fear with challenging those irrational thoughts.

Avoiding the dentist only creates more dental problems, increasing anxiety and fear. You could try bringing earbuds and listening to your favorite playlist or podcast. You could also try a stress ball or fidget toy. Adults with an overwhelming fear prohibiting them from completing necessary appointments have an option called sedation dentistry, this comes in many forms including oral to make patients feel more comfortable during treatment, lowering their heart rate and fogging the brain centers that overthink fears, loss of control, amnesia from past experiences and the here and now that can be a threat in itself.

The best thing to do for your child, is not to talk too much about the visit. Treat it like a trip to the shoe store, toy store, or the grocery store. Make it just like another trip necessary in life like a haircut. Don’t use phrases like “it won’t hurt”, or “be brave” or have a discussion about needles and drills. There are offices that offer certain types of cavity control, without needles and drills. Make it just like any other journey, only this is to have a doctor make sure your teeth and overall oral health are in good shape to keep you smiling for your lifetime.

As a parent, remember the importance of starting early with wiping gums, progressing to brushing and flossing regularly through the day and before bedtime, until they are of age to properly do it themselves, making it an enjoyable part of life, preventing cavities, needles, drills and even extractions to paint their dental history with memories of good dental visits. The failure to turn dental visits and good home care into a positive experience will lead to multiple visits of needles, drills, cavities or maybe even extractions, and a sure recipe to having a collection of bad memories that develop into a lifelong Dental Phobia.

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

Byron has been the sports reporter at the advocate since December of 2016. He likes to spend his time in cold hockey arenas accompanied by luke warm, watered down coffee.
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