Fear is a funny thing. It is part of our primitive defence mechanism. It can be a sensible reaction to imminent danger and the emotional and physical impetus to get us to run away from a sabre tooth tiger. But it can also be a psychological reaction to an imagined threat that poses no actual danger to us in the modern world.
It’s probably not surprising to hear that around half of all UK adults experience a fear of the dentist. This can range from a minor feeling of not wanting to book a check-up at the dentist in Richmond to a full-blown panic attack at the thought of sitting in the dental chair at a practice like Sheen Dental.
There are many reasons why someone may experience dental phobia. It could be:
- The memory of a negative experience in childhood – this might be either a treatment that was painful such as tooth extraction or a bad association such as wearing braces for a long period of time;
- Fear of needles;
- Fear of feeling pain;
- Fear of medical treatment;
- Fear of feeling suffocated;
- Discomfort caused by the sights, sounds and smells of the dental surgery such as the drill or the bright overhead light.
The dental profession recognised many years ago that it had a bit of an image problem and the modern-day dentist in Richmond couldn’t be more different to the surgeries of the past. The hardbacked chairs and sterile waiting rooms have given way to comfy sofas and TV screens in reception. The latest dental equipment is much gentler than it used to be. Drills are quieter, and the overhead light is kept dipped down whenever it’s not needed.
Many dentists now also focus on treating nervous patients and taking the discomfort they feel seriously. At the very least, patients will find a sympathetic ear. Many practices offer additional treatments such as conscious sedation to help ease anxiety and soothe the nervous system. This can be administered either as a tablet, gas or injection and it leaves the patient awake but fully relaxed. Some surgeries also offer hypnosis and in-chair entertainment such as music, audio books or films to take the patient’s mind off treatment.