Odontophobia: it is the extreme fear of the dentist and his treatment

You have had discomfort in your mouth for a long time, your gums are bleeding, you have postponed your annual oral cleaning for more than three years and your clumps are building up, you think you may be starting to develop periodontitis, and you know there is only one way to solve it all, you have no choice … but just imagining the panic, overwhelming fear, you try to convince yourself that it really isn’t if necessary go there and you are ready to endure this situation before going to a dentist office.

In this article, we’ll talk about a much more common phobia than previously thought: odontophobia, the irrational fear of going to the dentist, A problem that can trigger several serious health complications.

    What is odontophobia? Differentiate between anxiety and phobia

    As we mentioned earlier, odontophobia is the irrational and persistent fear of going to the dentist. To be considered a phobia, this fear must last at least six months.

    It should be noted that it is not the same thing to talk about the anxiety that we can all feel before going to the dentist (a very common thing in society, not only in children) and another thing is to talk to the dentist about phobia (odontophobia). Whether we like it or not, going to the dentist can be uncomfortable at times due to the invasive procedure they usually do, as the mouth is a very sensitive area. It is normal and adaptive for our body to somehow sense that there is “danger”, and that as a result anxiety is triggered to “run away” or “fight”. However, odontophobia is a much more serious thing for the sufferer because it affects their quality of life very negatively.

    A differentiator from having a simple state of anxiety and having odontophobia will be the extent to which the person actively avoids going to the dentist even if they really need to go. A very apt analogy to understand this is to compare it to the phobia of airplanes. Many people experience anxiety before taking a plane, but go no further and get on the plane without the need for alternative measures. People with a phobia of flying will avoid boarding an airplane as much as possible, and whenever they can take an alternative means of transport, even if it is objectively harming them (financially, weather, etc.).

    For the person with odontophobia, if possible avoid going to the dentist at all costsWhile the anxious person will handle this without giving it more importance, despite the discomfort or pain that they may be feeling.

    Symptoms of extreme fear of the dentist

    People with odontophobia are generally afraid of invasive procedures (puncture, surgery, tooth extraction, anesthesia, drilling …). They experience great anxiety, Which can lead to increased sensitivity to pain. Some authors associate odontophobia or dental phobia with the phobia of SID (Blood-Injection-Damage).

    They are afraid of the pain and, in some cases, are afraid of having a panic attack during the procedure. Due to fear, patients often contract their muscles, Even those of the face. Sometimes there may be hypersensitivity to the choking reflex, especially in men. Choking occurs when you try to insert objects into a person’s mouth or by squeezing their throat, preventing or preventing medical intervention.

    In the most severe cases of odontophobia with hypersensitivity to the choking reflex the stimuli that generate suffocation are amplified: thinking of the dentist, smelling the dentist’s own utensils, brushing your teeth, wearing a high collar, etc.

      the causes

      In general, the causes of any specific phobia, such as odontophobia, can be explained by three important factors (Barlow, 2002): biological vulnerability, generalized psychological vulnerability and specific psychological vulnerability. We will focus in particular on the specific psychological vulnerability, as this is usually the most important in odontophobia.

      It would be related to a direct negative learning experience, based on direct conditioning. Specifically, this would be the typical scene of a child going through a negative experience at the dentist, then conditioning the dentist with pain or a phobic stimulus, and generalizing to other stimuli (e.g., white coat)., L smell of a dentist, see the materials …).

      Logically, the severity and frequency of these negative experiences (feeling that every time you go to the dentist you have a very unpleasant or moderately negative experience) and infrequent exposure to the situation after the negative experience (further increase in addition to the frequency with which we go to the dentist for the aversion and the fear it generates in us: avoidance) are the most important variables for the development of this specific phobia.

      Fortunately, dental procedures are now less invasive and less painful that a few years ago, the result of technological innovation and the use of thinner and painless utensils.

      How is it overcome? treatment

      Live exposure is one of the most effective treatments for dental phobia or odontophobia. If the person has an uncontrollable fear, it may be helpful to start with exposure exercises in the imagination or to watch dentist videos, to continue with a live exposure when the patient feels more prepared.

      During live exposure, it is important that the patient feels that he has the ability to control the feared stimulus through signals previously agreed with the dentist (for example, deciding when to be pierced, stopping the forest). It is important that there is a high degree of predictability, that is, the patient is in control and knows what is going to happen at all times.

      Obviously, it’s better that the client chooses a trusted dentist and have a special empathy for the difficult situation that the person is going through, because their intervention will surely require patience and special care. The dentist should tell you what procedures to follow, what the next step will be and that you apply the appropriate anesthesia for each case.

      Also in case of odontophobia it is helpful to train the patient in controlled breathing or applied relaxation, Especially when the somatic reactions of intense fear produce muscle tension or tension in the throat).

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