What is Odontophobia?
Odontophobia, or dentophobia, is an extreme or irrational fear of going to the dentist. Dental phobia is common among people of all ages, and its severity can range depending on the individual. If you have odontophobia, you may dismiss your phobia and actively avoid the dentist, even when you are experiencing problems with your teeth, which can lead to the deterioration of your dental health and make you more prone to tooth decay, gum disease and infection.
What Causes Fear of Dentists?
Many people find visiting the dentist stressful, but if you have dental phobia, you may experience anxiety before, during, or even at the prospect of a dental appointment. Often dental phobias are caused by many different factors, including:
- Past traumatic dental experience: Whilst many do not have any problems with their dentist, many people develop their dental phobia due to a traumatic experience during an appointment. Perhaps you were scared of your dentist or had to have a painful filling as a child. You may have internalised these bad experiences, which can manifest themselves as a dental phobia.
- Concerns about oral health: If you are anxious about your oral health, particularly if you are experiencing dental pain, you may develop a fear of the dentist and actively avoid attending your appointment.
- Lack of control: If you have odontophobia, it is likely triggered by an underlying fear of losing control of yourself. When you’re being treated by a dentist, you have no control over your situation or safety, which many people find very distressing.
- Parental influence: If your parents have a dental phobia and actively avoid attending their dental appointments, you may develop the phobia, too, as your exposure level will be extremely low. This is a prevalent cause in children, but it can affect many adults as well.
Additionally, your dental phobia could be triggered by certain other phobias and anxiety disorders, such as:
- Underlying fear: Sometimes, your phobia could be triggered by an underlying fear, such as the dentist, pain, numbness or gagging, sounds and smells, and needles. You could encounter any of these fears during a dental appointment, which could make visiting the dentist particularly anxiety-inducing.
- Social anxiety disorder: Many people who have social anxiety disorder will find visiting the dentist particularly stressful because they must spend a period of time with a dentist, who is likely to initiate conversation and has to invade their personal space.
What are the Symptoms of Dental Phobias?
If you have dental phobia, you will often experience persistent and intense anxiety when you have a dental appointment or even at the prospect of visiting a dentist. You may also experience anticipatory anxiety, which is when you feel overwhelmed or stressed long before your dental appointment. Additionally, you may feel apprehensive, irritable, overly emotional, overwhelmed, or stressed. However, dental phobia can also manifest with physical symptoms, including:
- Chest pain, or shortness of breath;
- Difficulty concentrating, clouded thinking or disorientation;
- Chest pain, feeling tight chested, or choking sensations;
- Muscle spasms;
- Flushed skin, or feeling overly hot;
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting;
- Diarrhoea or constipation;
- Increased heart rate or heart palpitations;
In extreme cases, you may experience a panic attack, which is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers physical and psychological symptoms, such as heart palpitations, feeling like you’re hallucinating, having a heart attack, or even dying.
Consequences of not visiting the dentist
Going to the dentist regularly is essential to maintaining your oral health. However, many people do not attend their dental appointments due to anxiety, embarrassment, or forgetfulness. But what are the consequences of not visiting your dentist?
- Plaque buildup and development of tartar;
- Tooth decay;
- Tooth loss;
- Gum disease;
- Bad breath;
- Tooth staining;
- Oral cancer;
- Risk of disease in other parts of the body, such as heart disease or stroke;
- Abscesses and infections.
What Treatments are Available for Odontophobia?
If your dental phobia is having a detrimental impact on your life, you must get treatment for it. Hypnotherapy is a particularly effective and efficient complementary treatment for odontophobia, as it has little side effects and treats the underlying psychological cause of your anxieties so that they do not re-emerge later in life. However, patients often use this therapy alongside another form of treatment, including:
NHS sedation clinics: If you find attending the dentist extremely anxiety-inducing, you can ask your dentist to refer you to an NHS sedation clinic. In these clinics, you will be offered simple inhalation sedation through a nosepiece or a sedative tablet taken orally to help you relax before your dental appointment or treatment. Alternatively, you may prefer sedation through an injection during your treatment, which will be given via your hand or intravenously (through your arm). You will be awake for your full treatment and able to talk to your dentist, but the sedation will calm you to make your appointment more tolerable.
Talking treatments: talking treatments, such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, have been effective at treating dental phobias as they teach you sustainable coping methods that make your fear of the dentist more tolerable. However, one limitation of cognitive behavioural therapy is that often therapists will utilise exposure therapy by bringing the object that you fear into your sessions, which some patients find particularly anxiety-inducing. Therefore, if you believe that you would not benefit from exposure therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy probably isn’t for you.
Medication: Sometimes, medications, including antidepressants, tranquillisers, or beta-blockers, are prescribed short-term to treat the severe effects of odontophobia, such as anxiety. However, medication isn’t usually recommended for treating phobias because it tends to have side effects, such as nausea, dry mouth, headaches, sleeping problems, gastronomical issues, and sexual problems.
There are also several self-help techniques that you can introduce in your life to ease your dental phobia, such as:
- Find an understanding dentist: If you experience extreme anxiety when going to the dentist, you may find comfort in choosing a dentist that your friends or family has recommended. Alternatively, you could find a dentist who specialises in treating patients with dental phobias.
- Visit your dental surgery: Sometimes, getting acquainted with your dental surgery, the receptionist, and the environment can ease your anxiety. If you visit your surgery beforehand, you can also tell your dentist about your fears so that they will be prepared.
- Talk to your dentist: If you find visiting your dentist particularly anxiety-inducing, you can always meet with your dentist beforehand to layout coping methods to make your visit easier, such as agreeing on a signal that means that you want them to stop.
- Pick an appointment time: Pick an appointment time that suits your temperament. For example, if you prefer the evenings, you may feel more comfortable booking your appointment later in the day. Similarly, you may feel better if you book an early appointment, so you have less time to worry about it.
- Take someone you trust to your appointment: You may feel more at ease surrounded by someone you know.
- Listen to music: If it helps you relax, you can bring headphones to listen to music before or during your appointment.
Why use Hypnotherapy for Odontophobia?
Essentially, odontophobia is a conditioned response, which means that every time you encounter your phobia (the dentist or a dental appointment), your behaviour reinforces and strengthens it. However, hypnotherapy could help you break this cycle as it treats the underlying psychological cause of your dental phobia, which will ensure that it does not resurface later in life. At Focused Hypnosis, your hypnotherapist will use guided relaxation techniques to help you achieve hypnosis, where you will become totally relaxed and usually more susceptible to suggestion. Your hypnotherapist will work with you to disassociate attending a dental appointment with emotional distress and anxiety and help you deconstruct it so that it becomes more tolerable. Visit our pages to discover how you can use hypnotherapy for phobias and how does hypnotherapy work.
Benefits of Using Hypnotherapy for Anxious Patients
- Hypnotherapy sends you into a deeply relaxed state of mind and body, which will equip you with a calm mindset that will help you tackle your dental phobia;
- Hypnotherapy for dental phobias empowers you to take control of your life, as it offers you the tools to deconstruct your fear and think about it more positively so that it becomes more tolerable when you meet it in real life.
- Unlike many other forms of psychological treatment, hypnotherapy is self-led, as you can control the methods that your hypnotherapist will use, and you can bring yourself out of the hypnotic state whenever you want to.
- By learning how to control your dental phobia, your oral health could improve as regular dental check-ups make it less likely for your dental hygiene to deteriorate.
- Hypnotherapy allows you to directly influence your future, as it delves into your unconscious to treat the root cause of your dental phobia so that it does not re-emerge later in life.
- Hypnotherapy is all-natural and has little side-effects or complications.
- Hypnotherapy is cost-effective and a cheaper option for psychological treatment, as it only requires around six sessions. Please read our blog to find out how much does hypnotherapy cost.
- Hypnotherapy teaches you self-sufficient methods that can be practised and have effects that last for the rest of your life.
Potential Side Effects
When hypnosis is conducted by a trained hypnotherapist, therapist, or health care provider, it is generally considered a safe, complementary, and alternative psychological treatment. However, hypnosis can sometimes cause adverse reactions, such as:
- Anxiety or increased stress
- Creation of false memories
It is important to remember that all medical treatments cause side effects, and these are rare among hypnotherapy patients.
Additionally, hypnosis may not be appropriate for people with serious mental disorders, such as:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
What Happens During a Dental Phobia Hypnotherapy Session?
At Focused Hypnosis, your first dental phobia session will begin with your hypnotherapist explaining how hypnotherapy for phobias works. After that, you’ll agree on the methods that your hypnotherapist will use. When tackling phobias, some therapists use exposure therapy, which brings the thing or object that the patient fears into the room. However, many people find this anxiety-inducing, so if you believe that you would not benefit from this form of treatment, you should not use it.
Then, the hypnotherapist may:
- Use guided relaxation techniques to help you achieve hypnosis;
- Use your agreed method to achieve your goal. For example, advising that you are putting yourself and your oral health at risk by actively avoiding your dental appointments, so you should be encouraged to attend.
- To conclude the session, your hypnotherapist will gradually bring you out of your trance-like state.
Does Hypnotherapy for Odontophobia Work?
Hypnosis can be an effective, efficient, and accessible form of treatment if you need help tackling aerophobia. However, hypnosis is not the right form of treatment for everyone. For example, if you are not open to hypnosis, you will not achieve a trance-like state.Also, for some serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, hypnosis can have detrimental effects as it can create false memories.