As with most forms of phobic behaviour, the origins of dental fear tend to be found in childhood or adolescence – a traumatic dental experience, possibly with a critical or inconsiderate dentist, maybe backed up by unfavourable experiences related to friends or family members. Such experience can influence adult behaviour despite any amount of education and media coverage to the contrary.
The consequences of dental phobia can be traumatic in themselves. Over many years, a condition which is treatable can turn into one which is not. Phobic patients are highly likely to suffer from dental disease and end up slowly losing their teeth or in emergency services.
Dental phobics can get special help by specialists in psychotherapy services. There is a ‘talking’ cure, a very effective and friendly form of treatment, which often produces dramatic results. The guiding principle behind treatment is a graduated controlled exposure of patients to the feared stimulus.
The patients first have a session, in a room near the surgery, with a psychotherapist who will work with them to help them leave their fear in the past. They will then have a consultation with the dentist. Psychotherapy is more effective if the patients go immediately into the surgery, even if only for a consultation, rather than waiting several weeks.
A demystification of the dentist and his equipment is intended. Not all dentists cause pain. Besides, if one goes to the dentist regularly and damage to the teeth is treated immediately, there is little chance for the patient to feel any pain, whereas when fear of the dentist keeps you away from the surgery and your teeth develop large cavities, the intervention will always be painful.