Once shocked by his patients' hatred of dentists, George Williams, DDS, now better understands "anti-dentites," or people with fears about dental care. If you have dentophobia, read Dr. Williams' suggestions for overcoming it.
There was a time in my life when I would have guessed the number-one answer to the Family Feud question – Which health-care provider do people dislike most? – would be proctologist, not dentist.
So, when I first started my career as a dentist, I initially was a bit defensive when a new patient (whether a toddler or someone celebrating their 39th birthday for the 40th time) would begin our appointment with the words, “I HATE the dentist.” Really?
However, little by little, I have come to understand and empathize with the Jerry Seinfeld "anti-dentite" routine.
I think I've now heard every explanation under the sun about why patients “hate the dentist.” To name a few: bad childhood/adult experiences, claustrophobia, needles, needles again, pain, numbness, not being numb enough, ashamed of mouth appearance, always getting “bad news” and “being up in my business.” The common denominator behind all these reasons is anxiety, which patients typically interchange with the word fear.
President Roosevelt’s first inaugural address was delivered in 1933, during one of the lowest points of The Great Depression. He famously stated, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” This philosophy would not only drive the nation through The Great Depression, but also World War II. It is one of my favorite quotes, and it is helping me launch my personal crusade to help patients manage and hopefully overcome their fear of going to the dentist.
As you can imagine, it’s no easy task.
#1 – Recognize that your dentist is not a psychologist.
Unfortunately, dentists aren't taught much psychology in dental school. Instead, we learn how to help apprehensive patients manage their anxiety in the dental office mainly by trial and error through the years. Like most things in dentistry, it truly is an art. Help us with honing this art by…
#2 – Communicate with your dentist.
If you fear the dentist, you are not alone, but your previous experiences and anxieties are yours alone. They are unique to you. Therefore, to me, it all boils down to communication. As a dentist, I want you to:
- Express what specifically you are anxious about when it comes to dentistry.
- Tell me about your previous experiences.
- Share any information that will help me create a more comfortable environment that is uniquely tailored to you.
#3 – Communicate with other anti-dentites.
If you are an anti-dentite or someone with "odontophobia" or, my preference, "dentophobia," I highly recommend that you visit this website: http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/.
This is a phenomenal resource put together by average Joes and plain Janes to provide a dental phobia support forum, list common fears and provide tips to manage and overcome them.
#4 – Please see #2 again.
I can't stress this enough. It's important to communicate with your dentist. Try to articulate your abstract feelings, including anxieties. This allows your dentist, hygienist and others work as a team to help overcome your fears and improve your oral health. That is everyone's ultimate goal for your teeth!
Looking for a dentist in the Canton, Ohio, area? Learn more about what Mercy Dental Services has to offer.