Dental phobia is a common issue due to past practices of treating the tooth problem without paying attention to “the carrier”. Fear of the dentist can be considered a condition on it’s own, which should be addressed separately, before a tooth treatment is commenced. In reality, it is more important than the dental issue itself. Bad experience and memories from childhood may create anxiety, the patient would be afraid of the dentist, scared to open their mouth in the chair, and sometimes crying. Tears can only remind us how deeply the dentist is involved in patient’s life in multiple aspects – social, physical, emotional. The pain was considered a “necessary evil”, a trade-off for achieving dental health, beauty, self-confidence, motivation for social activity. Needless to say, it is more expensive to fix a problem than to prevent it. Who is to blame for this picture? Certainly not the patient. From family and school’s side, it is education, habit-building strategies, reinforcement, and grading of importance of things we do that affect our future life. Turns out, simple but important things as proper nutrition and dental hygiene has huge influence of our future life, at least as we see it today in the career-oriented not-anymore-western civilization. From the dentist’s side, it is application of threat-free dentistry both as behavior and action.
Apparently, technology moves faster than dental psychology. For a few decades we went from the Wright brothers’ odd flying machine to super-fast jets moving with triple the speed of sound. In less than five years Steve Jobs redefined the meaning of the word “phone” which was almost unchanged since Alexander Bell’s times. Yet, for hundreds of years, many still don’t understand – dentistry is about people, not teeth. We have better equipment, computer and laser technology etc. and still, often failing to realize that the real problem to deal with may not be in the mouth, may not be physical at all.
The solution as we see it is getting into patient’s head and heart before getting into their mouth. Establishing relationships of comfort and trust by giving up control and placing it into patient’s hands. Oral and IV sedation to put the patient to sleep would be the last resort, only for serious and lengthy surgical procedures.