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The history of treating dental fear

woman sitting in dentist chair scared of dentist

Dental fear and how to overcome it

Did you know that more than 16% of adult Australians experience high levels of dental fear? Fear can be debilitating. It can lead you to cancel dental appointments and live with poor oral hygiene instead of getting the treatment you need when you need it.

Dental fear is not a new phenomenon. It stems from the “fight-or-flight” human response to danger. However, dentistry has modernised over the years. The average experience in a dental chair today is vastly different and better than it was some years ago.

The Point Dental clinic has state of the art dental facilities and highly trained professional dentists to help you overcome your fears and get the treatment you need.

Fight or flight — where it all began

A stressful situation triggers the release of stress hormones and a chain reaction of physiological changes. This has become known as the “fight-or-flight” syndrome because it triggers a response as a survival mechanism. We either flee from danger to escape it or fight it off in the act of aggression.

Unfortunately, the “fight-or-flight” response is not only triggered by life-threatening situations. The thought of visiting the dentist can trigger the same sense of fear and stress response.

The history of sedation

woman receiving inhalation sedation at dentist clinic

Studies show that ancient human cultures observed the patterns of wild and domestic animals to discover herbal remedies for pain. They also made use of psychotropic plants to help them adapt to stress and promote resilience.

The first known anaesthetic was developed by ancient Arabian physicians. Known as an Aleppo Sponge, it was used to induce sedation.

Traditional methods of coping with pain

Because the anticipation of pain is one of the primary causes of dental fear, it is vital to understand how to cope with pain. Some traditional coping methods are as follows:

  • Pain killers like paracetamol
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
  • Local anaesthetics

Other non-medical methods of coping with pain include cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation and stress management techniques as well as psychological support.

Understanding modern dental fear

Researchers are continually seeking ways to understand human anxiety and behaviours better. They have performed several studies specifically aimed at the subject of dental fear. Researchers summarise five pathways to the origin of dental fear:

Cognitive conditioningDental fear that comes from a previous bad experience. A painful visit to the dentist in the past causes fear of pain when making a new appointment.
InformativeThe informative pathway is made up of any knowledge that influences a person’s view of the dentist. It could come from peers, adults, movies or other media.
Visual vicariousPatients who witness someone else experience a painful dental treatment may develop anxiety themselves. It is vicarious because the experience was not their own but comes from something they have seen.
Verbal threatIn this case, patients have not seen a painful dental treatment, but they have been told about it. The story of someone else’s bad experience makes them anxious about visiting the dentist themselves.
ParentalChildren who observe dental fear in a parent are likely to develop anxiety of their own.

Whatever the reason you may feel anxious about going to the dentist, these days there are modern solutions designed to set you at ease.

Modern solutions to dental fear

woman sitting in dentist chair talking to dentist
  1. Choose a dentist that understands your dental anxiety and is proactive about finding the right solution for you. At The Point Dental we have a variety of options to control stress and a whole pool of resources to help you understand and deal with your dental fear.
  2. Use a sedative option to make sure your dental procedure is pain-free. There is no longer any need to experience pain during dental procedures with the number of sedatives available these days. From local anaesthetics to oral or inhalation sedation or even sleep therapy – there is definitely a sedative solution for you.
  3. Take advantage of relaxation techniques like headphones and eye masks or deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Cognitive therapy is another way to build up towards a dental procedure through step by step exposure to parts of the treatment, e.g. injections.

Contact The Point Dental

The Point Dental is committed to a pain-free dental experience. Our dentists and staff care about you and listen to your anxieties. We offer state of the art facilities and several sedation options.

Reach out to The Point Dental to make a first appointment. We work with you to relieve your anxiety and keep your mouth healthy.