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Dental Fear and Guilt

Jul 1, 2008
Dental fear is the term often used to describe the feeling that overcomes many of us when its time to visit the dentist. This fear is strong enough to keep people from postponing the care they need for years. There are two main reasons that people fear the dentist:

Fear of pain
Fear of feeling guilty for postponing the visit for so long

The fear of pain is the most obvious and most common reason that people put off visiting the dentist. Even the most routine procedures can be painful although often the fear of pain is worse than the actual pain.

Many patients still harbor nightmares regarding painful visits to the dentist as a child. Not that long ago, dentistry involved the pulling and drilling of teeth with the most barbaric looking tools.

Dentist attitudes were also less than sympathetic in the past. Patients often heard the phrases, "This will only hurt a little," "I'm almost finished, you can hang on" and "It's not that bad." Injections were painful and arduous, as the dentist searched for the right spot with a long sharp needle. Patients were giving a minimal amount of pain medication and often sent home with little more than an aspirin following dental surgery.

Fortunately, times have changed. Dental tools are now designed to be less invasive and particularly noise-free. Many dentists use the latest techniques, many which now use lasers instead of drills and injection-free pain relief. Most dentists offer special techniques for frightened patient including sedation dentistry which allows the patient to sleep through the procedure and awaken pain-free.

However, many dental patients say that the fear of feeling guilty is just as bad as the fear of pain. Dental staffs often lecture errant patients about the lack of care their teeth are receiving and the ensuing humiliation is often coupled with the guilt that the patient already feels for neglecting their teeth.

Many people harbor personal guilt and fears before they ever walk into the dentist's office:
Guilt for not taking better care of their teeth
Guilt for being irresponsible
Embarrassment at the thought of a dentist looking at their teeth
Fear of a dentist's lecture on the importance of dental care
Fear that the dentist will tell them that its too late

These fears and emotions keep patients from seeking dental care. Many people fear the public humiliation that can come from a long postponed dental visit where a dental staff may lecture them on their irresponsible care and poor hygiene. For these people, the fear is in itself enough to keep them from seeking treatment even when they are in pain.

Don't let these fears keep you from seeking the dental treatment you need. Today's dentists are aware of the guilt that people feel when they neglect their oral care and are experienced at making a trip to the dentist pleasant and guilt-free. Avoiding the dentist will only make the problem worse; dental staffs are trained in providing confidential and pain-free care in environments which foster understanding and guilt-free communication between patient and staff.
About the Author
Ray Subs works with Dr. Ronald Receveur as a public relations consultant for his dental practice in New Albany, Indiana, more information can be found at Indiana Smiles.com
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