The fear can be of different aspects of dental treatment, general ones such as needles or blood, while some people suffer quite specific fears relating to dental treatment.
Research by the British Dental Association has found that 12% of the UK population suffer from an extreme fear of the dentist, while a massive 25% of us have a more general anxiety about the experience.
Dentists are now beginning to explore ways to treat dentophobe in order to help them with their oral health before problems become too serious. Often it is only when their teeth begin to look really bad or become extremely painful that a dentophobe will actually face their fears and visit the surgery.
Dr Jennifer Pinder has been treating dentophobes in London for the last 30 years and she says that dentists need to find out what the patient’s specific fear is and then deal with the issue sympathetically.
“People keep saying it’s irrational, but phobias are actually a rational reaction to pain and fear,” Dr Pinder says. “People are often embarrassed and ashamed about it. I hear the words ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’ all the time.”
Her treatment methods involve a first session without any dental treatment at all, where she simply discusses the issues surrounding the dentophobia and how they might tackle the fear together.
People with a fear of needles can be treated using a common psychological technique called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which aims to treat patients’ phobia by changing their behaviour over a period of time.
Dr Paul Blenkiron, consultant psychologist in York who uses CBT to treat dentophobes, explained; “Firstly I get the patient to practise handling needles, then press a needle against their arm and finally, when anxiety has reduced, I carry out an injection,” he explains.