• Dental Phobia Support

    Welcome! This is an online support group for anyone who is very afraid of dentistry or who suffers with dental phobia. Please note that this is NOT a general dental forum! You can find a list of them here.

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Let me know what you think.

L

lanniesmith

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2007
Messages
25
Hi everyone. :grouphug:

I am posting this as a response to spending quite a bit of time on this message board over the last couple of months and reading your stories. I have always tried to help patients who are scared when the come to visit me but I had never truly realised how many people don’t even make it through the door in the first place. I have re-examined how I look at patients like all of you on this site and feel that many of us in the dental profession must do the same. I am not saying there are easy answers to the way any of you are feeling but I do think we have a duty of care to try. I would love to publicise this site in the dental world and have tried to write something resembling an article that maybe one day might make it into dental publications. I think every dentist should read your stories and make them realise the truth about fear.
I would love to know if I am on the right lines or if I have completely misunderstood how many of you feel. I have aimed this at dental professionals but very much appreciate your feedback. Thanks for taking time to read it

Please do not let the first paragraph put you off. Unfortunatly it is from experience that this is the attitude of many dentists and it is this that hopefully can be changed. Please do not let it put you off seeing your dentist

I look forward to your responses
Lannie  :XXLhug:

Permission to be afraid

It is probably likely that most of us start our day by scanning the patient day list. How often do we sit there and have that pit of the stomach feeling when certain names appear? We all do it where we turn to our nurse and go “have you seen who’s in today” And more than often get the response “yes, I know!” I have always struggled to remember names and used to worry when a name looked familiar because I knew that the reason was most normally not a good one.

But why do theses names promote such strong feelings?
Is it the patients who you know will walk in ask question after question taking up most of the appointment before you can even examine them?
Is it the patients who don’t communicate and come across as aggressive?
Is it the patient who walks in and quite bluntly tells you that they hate you (always a great job satisfaction boost!)?
Is it the patient who moans about costs and rip off dentists?
Is it the patient who you have numbed up but continues to claim they can feel pain?
Is it the patient who attends for an examination but you know will not return for treatment?

The list can go on and on and it would be fair to say that it can be these patients that most of us feel make our job much more difficult. But how many of sit and think that maybe it is us that are making the patient’s life more difficult, just by being a dental professional?

I think everyone has been burnt by something hot at least once in our lives. You can probably sit and remember that pain in all its smallest detail from the shock of it happening to the agony afterwards. Now if I asked you to put your hand in a fire it would be the memory of that pain that would make you fight kick and scream with all your might to stop me. But would I be fair in calling you are fire phobic, or would you say that its just common sense that stops you sticking your hand in? Because you are not irrational to be afraid of that fire is the reason why we don’t have “fire phobic” support groups attended by pretty much the entire human race.

Phobias are most commonly associated with things that people have irrational fears over. Take flying for example why should anyone be afraid of something that is safer than walking down your local high street? What about spiders? The chances of any kind of spider in this country hurting you are so small why be afraid? These “irrational” fears can be easily dismissed although some sufferers will fight kick and scream with all their might not to face them. So when we brand someone “dental phobic” we are telling that person their fear is irrational and they belong with all the other irrational people who fear irrational things like mice or birds because, after all, what could possibly be bad about dentistry?

The cold hard truth about our job as a dental professionals is that we do things to people that really aren’t very nice. As much as we would all like to think that we try and make procedures pain free and comfortable for the patient we know deep down that some pain or discomfort is inevitable if even just a small amount. So if a patient knows that they are going to experience pain no matter how small why does it become irrational for them to be afraid?
The fear response is a basic human instinct it protects us, without it we would never reach adulthood. Fear is different for everyone, if asked, I’m sure the majority of people would think of nothing worse than throwing them self off a bridge attached to a string of elastic, but for others bungee jumping is easy. For the majority of people going to the dentist is easy because they can believe that even if something is painful it’s not going to last forever and at the end it is going to be worth it. It’s a bit like the people who can stand on top of that bridge and know that even if the falling is truly terrifying the elastic will save them and the buzz will be worth it in the end. The rest of us however will stand on that bridge and the fear of that terrifying fall is enough that we will never jump because deep down we can never trust that elastic. Imagine if even worse the person before you jumps but their elastic breaks and they plummet to earth. Now in your head you have the image of that horrifying fall its going to mean that if anyone tries to get you to jump you are going to do everything in your power to stop them. Imagine however that you are in pain or have an unsightly appearance which you know can all be solved by jumping. Even though that pain or disfigurement might be horrendous the idea of jumping will still fill you with an even more agonising fear.

For patients who fear dental treatment the idea of even visiting a dentist is the same as you standing on that bridge watching the person fall. The patient has most commonly had some kind of experience that has made them believe that going through treatment is worse than anything else, even the pain or unsightliness of damaged teeth. This previous experience has usually involved pain, helplessness or even humiliation. Asking someone to possibly repeat these experiences is asking them to take that massive jump.

Think of yourself now as the person holding the elastic on that bridge. You know that the person falling was a one off and that sometimes bad things can happen and people will experience pain no matter how hard you try. You are fully confident in that elastic now and you can’t possibly understand why someone won’t jump because you know its safe so why shouldn’t they!

If you asked that person to come back another day to do that jump what might happen?
Would they turn up and keep you talking as long as possible so to delay the jump?
Would they be aggressive and not communicate hoping that you might call the whole thing off?
Would they tell you that they hated you for what you were making them do?
Would they moan because you were not only going to make them jump but you were going to make them pay for it as well?
Would they, even after they have seen other people jump safely, still insist that the elastic isn’t tight enough?
Or would they just not turn up at all?
These may now not look like unreasonable responses to genuine fear.

Remember your treatment is that length elastic your patient is the one you are asking to jump. You are the one who has to make them believe they will just bounce right back up and not hit the floor. We can all be quick to dismiss our patients as just “difficult”. But maybe we should think of ourselves as the ones who are responsible for providing the answers to the problem rather than thinking the patient is the problem.

I would urge any dental professional to visit http://www.dentalfearcentral.org and just read the accounts of these patients. Let’s stop branding people like this as dental phobic and acknowledge the reality that everyone has permission to be afraid of pain, Its just some people cope with this fear better than others. Possibly we can then all realise its up to us as professional care givers to make this fear more manageable in any and everyway we can.
 
brit

brit

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
6,807
Location
In My Dental Happy Place
Hi Lannie
I would say you've hit the nail on the head almost perfectly there....the only angle I would maybe change...is not to make it sound like painless treatment is impossible...I don't believe it is....good injection technique can make most injections comfortable....the 'duty of care' you refer to, is really a duty to provide the best most up to date 'pain free' treatment......let's see what options are there?: give the patient control, be kind, friendly and gentle, always use topical anesthesia and good technique, The Wand, Diagnodent, Healozone (widely embraced by mainstream dentists in some parts of the world but originated in UK), nitrous oxide, i/v sedation.

I have never avoided dental treatment and never will - but you can bet your life any practice I ever register at in future will have all of the above on offer, although I would normally be quite happy to have everything done with just local given with good technique.

I think if patients are paying private rates for their dentistry it is easier for them to demand all of the above modern techniques and 'vote with their mouths' as it were.

Thanks for taking an interest...I would have thought at least one essay assignment on the subject of dental phobia (based on this website maybe) would be highly instructional to all dental students...some of whom may never have been on the receiving end of any invasive treatment whatsoever in their short lives.
 
vicki

vicki

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2005
Messages
992
Location
UK
Hi Lannie

That's a fantastic article :D and if you can get it published in as many places as possible, you'd be helping potentially thousands of people.

The only suggestion I'd make is this; from my own experience it seems that even if as a patient you're lucky enough to have a dentist and dental team who realise that you're afraid, nine times out of ten they automatically assume that it's either injections or pain (or both) that you're afraid of.

Of course lots of people are scared of those things, but some people also have other fears and issues as well, which more often than not have been caused by previous bad experiences either at the dentists or elsewhere. For example, although my previous dentist realised that I was scared at appointments, he assumed that I was scared of pain and injections (maybe because that was what he was taught at dental school perhaps :confused:). It never entered his mind to ask what I was actually afraid of. If he had, he would have discovered that my reasons for being scared are nothing to do with that at all (don't get me wrong - I don't like pain or injections either! :p) and are as a result of previous very bad experiences of one sort or another. Perhaps if he'd taken the time to find out a bit more about what was wrong and how he could have helped, rather than assuming, then things might have been less frightening for me at appointments and also easier for him too.

As you say, it might help to stop labelling people 'dental phobic' because I don't think there is such a thing as a typical dental phobic or nervous patient. Everyone is different and is not just another name on a list.

Good luck with your article :thumbsup:. Hopefully it will make a real difference :D.
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Messages
5,736
Hi Lannie,

what a great idea :D! I hope you do get your article published - best of luck with it :thumbsup:!

I agree with Vicki that causes other than a bad experience at the dentist may be a relatively common component of dental phobia (an obvious example would be past sexual abuse).

One thing I might consider changing is the paragraph about fear of flying. While it looks quite "irrational" on the surface, a large percentage of people with a fear of flying are actually afraid of panic attacks while flying (being stuck in a confined space with no means of escape). Flying is very commonly feared by people with panic "disorder"/agoraphobia - and the underlying causes for this phobia may actually be quite "rational". E.g. people may fear that a panic attack could cause a heart attack if someone they know has suffered a heart attack, or they may fear going crazy as a result of panic if a relative has a mental disorder. While this is not the case and panic attacks are quite harmless, early intervention to clear up these misconceptions sadly is rare, even nowadays.

What I'm trying to say is that fear of flying is perhaps a bad example of an "irrational phobia", because it perpetuates the myth that all people who are scared of flying are scared of the plane crashing, when perhaps the majority of them take little comfort in the fact that planes are a safe mode of transport.

Apart from these very minor niggles, a great article :respect:!!!
 
S

scaredsnail

Member
Joined
May 15, 2007
Messages
51
It's good. :) I definitely like the use of the fire image to make the reader see how normal it is.

However, I am scared of dentists and have never had a painful experience with one. Nor am I expecting to. For me it has nothing to do with the actual procedure, and everything to do with how psychologically upsetting the whole situation is. You can't speak, you've been told not to move and have an idea something bad will happen if you do, and because you can't move your field of vision is restricted, and there's a lot of noise going on. Dentists put us in a position of not being able to speak, move, see or hear ... and then wonder why we get scared!?

My particular fears are to do with feeling trapped, feeling conspicuous, and with people being behind me where I can't see them. And with not trusting people generally. A lot of people also have problems with lying down and with things being put in their mouth. So if a dentist assumes my fear is about pain and keeps telling me nothing will hurt, that just makes me feel worse because he obviously doesn't understand and I'm obviously looking really stupid. Please don't convince them that pain is the only issue.
 
C

Clem

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
157
I was going to reply, but realize that Scaredsnail has said everything exactly the way I would have, so there's not too much to add. It's the environment, the position, the helplessness, the intrusion into one's personal space, all of that stuff, that make dentistry miserable for me, too. Thanks for putting it so eloquently and accurately!!!!!
 
B

Bryanna

Junior member
Joined
Jul 8, 2007
Messages
1
Hi Lannie,
I am new to this forum and very glad to see that it exists!!

I have had many "unpleasant" experiences during dental treatment which have contributed to my "lifetime" apprehensions about getting in the dental chair. To help deal with my "fears" and to help others deal with theirs, I entered the dental profession about 30 years ago as a chairside assistant. My goal was (is) to help a person recognize and acknowledge their fears about being in the dental chair and/or dental procedures without feeling patronized or whimpy.

Some dentists do recognize that there is alot of fear out there preventing people from seeking dental care, but due to time restrictions, they don't usually answer the questions completely or comfort the patient prior to the actual appt. I've actually been given the role of Patient Care Counselor to work one on one with some of these people prior to their dental appts. I think every dental office should have someone (knowledgeable) in this position as it truly helps put a patient at ease and the cancellation rate is virtually nil! So it's really a win/win situation!

I think your article is quite informative and certainly worth reading for people who are in this profession. However, perhaps the best place for it to be initially published would be in the dental schools where the students are vaguely taught compassion towards their patients. I think a semester of "communication", as in learning how to listen and speak with patients, would be a huge asset to every new dentist. I believe, education is the key to understanding and then experience teaches us the rest.

As you know, dentists are taught to be tooth carpenters and their main focus is on the details associated with getting the job done properly. An anxious patient can disrupt the dentist's concentration and........... well ......... "we" know what happens then.

I am finding that more and more people are becoming self educated via the internet about dental issues. Some of what they are reading is exaggerated information, some of it is controversial...... but I think it's a start in the right direction as it helps some people to become better informed of the questions they need to ask but were afraid to or didn't know how to. I think it also encourages those of us who are in this profession, to stay well informed and up to date through continued education on not just the latest dental technique, but some controversial subjects like metal fillings and root canal therapy, so we can better serve the public by helping them make informed decisions about their care.

I may have digressed a bit here from the main subject.... I just wanted to voice my opinion and elaborate a bit on your article about "Permission to be Afraid". What are your thoughts about taking your article, for instance, to dental schools?

Bryanna
 
L

lanniesmith

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2007
Messages
25
Hi
firstly thanks everyone for your feed back it has been very helpful. It is great hear from people like bryanna and to know that there are pople out there who do want to help. I really dont know how its going to happen but we need to be taking dental fear much more seriously in the profession. There must be a way forward to help such a massive percentage of the population. I remember someone else on this board saying that maybe the people who aren't sacred are the minority rarther than the people who are truely scared!

I look forward to all your feed back and i'm already taking these ideas on board before a rewrite. Thanks again
 
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