Improve A Child’s Smile By Visiting A ‘Dental Fear’ Clinic

 Phobia is anxiety or a fear of an object, people, or situation.  The most common phobias are animals, phobias to height, phobias to closed spaces. These phobias may be mild or severe. These phobias don’t go away quickly and need extensive treatment in exposure therapy or medications, including antidepressants.

Improve A Child’s Smile By Visiting A ‘Dental Fear’ Clinic

One such widespread phobia is odontophobia or dentophobia, which is the fear of dentists or dental clinics.  It may also be due to the fear of needles or dental drill sounds. 

Improve A Child's Smile By Visiting A 'Dental Fear' Clinic

If not treated in time, Odontophobia may result in poor dental care or even other health issues.  People suffering from dental phobia experience sweating, fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, or even syncope when they visit a dental clinic or dentist.

People who have odontophobia need to have a thorough discussion with their dentists about their fear and anxiety, and the course of treatment can be decided thereupon. 

Treatment for dental phobia may be psychotherapeutic, pharmacological, or both.  Psychotherapeutic treatment includes behavioral strategies like deep breathing, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.  Pharmacological treatment includes the use of sedation or general anesthesia.

Researchers show 1 in every 10 patients is very scared of the dentists.  To overcome this fear, a dentistry program has been set up at Finland City of Oulu, known as the “Clinic for Fearful Dental Patients.” 

Through this program, adults and children as young as 2 years are made to go through various desensitizing exams and other techniques to overcome this dental fear.

The clinic has 3 dentists who treat dental anxiety patients; two of them are clinical practitioners and give the patients lectures on overcoming the fear, and the third is a hypnotherapist.

VuokkoAnttonen, professor of cardiology, endodontology, and pediatric dentistry with the research unit of oral health sciences at the University of Oulu, and her colleagues studied 152 patients of various age groups under the clinic’s care from the year 2000 to 2006. 

The therapy involved two approaches – psychological and pain control.  The psychological approach included giving the patient a thorough understanding of the dental procedure. 

In some cases, hypnotherapy also proved to be helpful.  For pain control, the techniques used were conscious oral sedation, nitrous oxide sedation, and sometimes even general anesthesia.

In 2006, when the study concluded, the clinic successfully eliminated dental fear from roughly 7 out of 10 patients.  The study also concluded that young patients had more regular dentist visits compared to their older peers and hence the younger patients needed less emergency dental care.

Experts suggest that if adults fear going for dental visits, it is better to expose young children to dental visits so that by the time they become adults, they outgrow this phobia. 

Children can be encouraged to go for dental visits for fun, to count their teeth, or even children can accompany elders to the dentist’s office so that they become aware of what is happening in the dentist’s office at a very young age. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental visit in young children by the age of 1 or when the first tooth erupts in a baby.  The babies are exposed to dental visits right from a very young age by doing so.

Practicing good oral hygiene is the key to best oral care.  Poor oral hygiene can lead to other serious health issues like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Excessive consumption of sugary food, excessive smoking, and excessive alcohol drinking can lead to dental decay.  Regular dental checkups and cleanups can help detect any dental problems early, reducing the need for invasive or emergency procedures.

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