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We all know him (or her), he will do anything in his power to avoid seeing the dentist. His dentistry avoidance techniques range from procrastinating or ‘forgetting’ his appointment to extreme excuse fabrication, or even faking a cold or flu if it excuses him from his routine check-up and cleaning. This person likely suffers moderate to
severe dental anxiety or phobia and this fear can be very real and debilitating for those who suffer its psychological grip. For sufferers, just the thought of calling a dental office can be intimidating. This fear can be the result of belonephobia (fear of needles) or a previously traumatic dental experience. Whatever the cause of the fear, the reality is, almost everyone will have to see a dentist in his or her lifetime.

The good news is, there are practical solutions that can help anxious patients make their dental experiences more manageable, even enjoyable. The non invasive approaches come from caring and patient-focused dental teams. While mental illnesses are invisible to the eye, a well trained dental team should be able to spot the patients who suffer from dental phobias and offer guidance in helping patients through their treatment. Dentists can help anxious patients by communicating in easily understandable language, educating patients of their options so that they are making informed decisions, and making sure that patients consent to and fully understand their treatment plans. Patients and dentists should create a “stop” signal that indicates the patient is uncomfortable or needs a break. There are also pharmacologic options such as conscious/oral sedation whereby patients are administered sedative medications via a pill or through an IV, to alleviate the anxiety. In the extreme case, an approach of general anesthesia where patients are ‘put to sleep” for treatment may be indicated.

Remember, dentists are not mind readers, usually, and it is important if you have dental fears to identify what those fears are and communicate them to your dentist. Open communication will help your dentist know what your concerns are so that a plan can be put in place to help manage anxiety. A good dentist will listen, take your fears
seriously and offer choices that help you have the most pleasant dental experience possible.

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