No one likes going to the dentist, and for some people this is a real fear. This fear of dentistry or receiving dental care is called dental anxiety, dental phobia, formally known as odontophobia. Research has shown that about 75 percent of people in the United States experience dental anxiety in different degrees. People who experience this intense type of fear about going to the dentist go through a cycle of avoiding the dentist and dental care altogether. Dental phobia as mentioned before, can exist due to a variety of things, but one in particular can be the environment and the dentist themselves.
For people who experience severe dental anxiety, going to a dentist where there is a more calm and positive environment, often helps to ease anxiety and fears. Today, dentists use a variety of behavioral strategies and techniques to help reduce dental fear for their patients. Cognitive and behavioral techniques, such as positive reinforcement, non-threatening behavior, and patient education, can all be instrumental in helping patients psychologically overcome their fear and anxiety.
It has been beneficial for dentists who use the look-see-do technique, which helps to desensitize the patient in the dentist chair. This means using skills such as educating the patient about the process in a non-threatening and caring way, by showing and demonstrating. For example, for a patient who is fearful of injections, the dentist first teaches relaxation skills to the patient, having them do breathing techniques or listen to music, then gradually introducing the feared object, in this case, the needle to the patient, encouraging the patient to use these relaxation skills previously taught. The patient goes through this cycle of learning these behavioral and cognitive techniques and skills, to eventually receive the dental injection successfully, with little to no fear.
Therefore, this look, see, do technique along with a combination of gentle dentistry may help those who suffer from dental anxiety.
The phrase “gentle” dentistry is often scoffed about. People think how can the dentist be gentle? Technology is always evolving, and dentists are utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. In other words, dentists now have more training and knowledge about how to treat patients who are anxious and fear the dentist. Picking a dentist can be difficult, but those dentists who center their practice around gentle dentistry, focus on these four areas: dental skill, investment in new technology & equipment, techniques they use, and providing a valuable customer experience.
Dentists who utilize gentle dentistry have been instructed to be more sensitive and caring to how their patients feel, and use techniques to help ease their pain and anxiety to make the procedure or dental cleaning that they are receiving a more relaxing, reassuring, and comfortable experience. Taking away the previous stimuli of what is causing the fear or anxiety in the first place, dentists who practice gentle dentistry can develop a better physician-patient relationship with their patients.
At the office of Dr. Ernie Soto, we practice gentle dentistry, where a big part of it is building a rapport with our patients, educating them, and most importantly, making them feel comfortable, as going to any doctor, especially the dentist can be nerve-wracking in general, without having dental anxiety or a phobia to begin with.
To help our patients ease their mind we utilize patient education, music, and other techniques such as sedation dentistry, helping them relax when in the chair for treatment. To learn more about how you can get the smile you need without the usual feelings of fear and discomfort, call Dr. Ernie Soto at (954) 368-6264 to request an appointment.