Fear of the dentist is a problem for millions of Americans. Some people even say their fear of the dentist is worse than their fear of death. It’s an issue that affects people all over the world, and in some cases is so intense, it prevents people from getting quality dental care. When they delay, and even avoid the dentist, they put their dental health at risk.
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What is broadly referred to as fear of the dentist may include anything from anxiety at pending checkups, to outright phobia and avoidance. It’s a barrier that could be overcome with more comfort dentistry. “A lot of patients not only avoid the dentist due to fear,” said Dr. Zeyad Mady of the Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria, “but also end up receiving less than ideal dental care due to lack of comfort during dental visits.”
Comfort dentistry, or sedation dentistry, can help people accept dental treatment, even in extreme cases. The Center for Dental Anesthesia (CDA) has made comfort dentistry an essential feature of its practice and has helped countless patients get the dental care they need.
Risks of Avoidance
On the surface, avoiding the dentist due to fear has a certain logic to it. If there is something that makes you uneasy, stay away from it. If you brush and floss your teeth religiously, you’re safe, right?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. While a conscientious dental care routine at home can help, it isn’t enough. Here’s why:
- Plaque build-up. Plaque is the filmy substance caused by food debris and the bacteria that naturally occurs in the mouth. It breaks down tooth enamel and causes cavities. In time it can harden into tartar. Regular cleanings at the dentist’s office remove every last trace of plaque and tartar.
- Gum disease. Plaque can also lead to gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. In its early stages it is called gingivitis and is easily treatable, but a dentist needs to diagnosis it first.
- Other health issues. The link between dental health and overall health is by now well-established. Dentists are trained to recognize the signs of issues like diabetes and heart disease.
- Oral Cancer. Dental checkups include screenings for oral cancer. Like all cancer, early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Anyone skipping the dentist becomes vulnerable to these and other issues.
By one ranking, fear of dentistry is #5 on the list of the most common fears: higher than death, but below snakes, heights, storms, and flying.
It may be due to past experience, personality traits, or something else, but dental anxiety touches virtually everyone. “Everybody has some fear of dentistry,” says Arthur A. Weiner, DMD, an emeritus member of the Academy of General Dentistry. It might be the sights and smells of a dental office, the sounds of a drill, or the costs involved. But Dr. Weiner says that one way or another, it affects just about everyone.
He has created a system that measures anxiety on a scale of one through ten, with ten being the highest. He calls it the Anxiety Sensitivity Level. “It can predict the experience and level of pain and pain-related response before and during treatment,” he writes. The average patient, according to his index, ranks about two or three.
Harvey Levy, DMD, calls dental anxiety a feeling of apprehension about what might happen during an appointment. It can be so strong in some people that, after making it to a scheduled appointment, they flee the waiting room at the last minute. “It’s when anxiety progresses to phobia – and extreme fear or aversion to the dental visit – that we have to use deeper sedation or even general anesthesia,” Dr. Levy says.
What To Do?
Most dentists agree that treating patients with dental anxiety is a serious challenge, when it’s done in an ordinary dental environment. There is no single strategy for ensuring successful treatment.
All patients with special needs must
have equal access and high-quality
treatment that focuses on patient safety,
patient-centered care, and treatment
of all dental needs.
– Dr. Zeyad Mady
At the Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria, Dr. Zeyad Mady has made treating patients with anxiety and dental phobia an essential part of his practice. He and his staff recognize how wide-spread dental anxiety and phobia is and are fully equipped to treat patients who cope with it.
In addition to sedation provided by board-certified anesthesiologists, the CDA offers:
- Initial consultations in non-dental rooms
- Personalized care
- Pretreatment oral medications
- Post-procedure spa recovery room with luxurious patient amenities and full monitoring capabilities.
The CDA also specializes in special needs dentistry. “Dental phobia, in my opinion, is also considered a special need,” Dr. Mady says.
If you or someone close to you is coping with dental anxiety or phobia, please do not put your dental health at risk. Call us at The Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria and we will provide you with proper dental care, free from any stress.
 Worse than fear of death: “Stressed Out of the Dental Chair,” by Lindsey Lewandowski. Referred to hereafter as “Stressed.”
Global scope of problem: “Dental Anxiety: Causes, Complications, and Management Approaches,” by Raghad Hmud and Laurence J. Walsh. Referred to hereafter as “Anxiety.”
 Value of comfort dentistry: “Management of Dental Anxiety, by Lesley P. Longman and Robert S. Ireland. Referred to hereafter as “management.”
Dr. Mady quote: Interview, March 2019. Referred to hereafter as “Interview.”
 “What Happens When You Don’t Go to the Dentist?”
“4 Things That Happen If You Avoid the Dentist”