Are you affraid of the dentist?

Man is born with only two fears: fear of falling and fear of noises. These two are alarms that nature gave us and they belong to our elaborate system of self-preservation. Normal fear is good. We hear a car coming toward us and we step aside to avoid it hitting us.

All other fears we got from our parents, relatives, kindergarten teachers and the rest of the people who have influenced our early life.

So there is normal fear and there is abnormal fear which is mostly caused by people letting their imagination run wild and with the help of it they imagine and plan the worst scenarios and outcomes of situations. Then this imaginary movie they’re playing in their head terrorizes them and disables them from normal functioning. Some people are afraid that something terrible will happen to their children and their loved ones. since the moment they read about some epidemic or disaster, they live in fear of becoming infected, that their loved ones will die and some of them imagine how would it be if they already have the illness.

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One of such abnormal fears is the fear of dentists. Maybe you had an unpleasant experience at the dentist in your childhood and you don’t even think of going to the dentist again, even twenty years later even though your toothaches. This is the majority. But, the fear of dentist mostly stems from the fear of losing control: the patient is lying there prone with his mouth open and full of and the dentist is above him, with the dental funnel and cotton in his mouth, and he can’t talk or move. That fear, on the other hand, stems from the fear of being helpless.

Some people have an instant stress reaction after they step into the dentist’s office and the smell. Do you remember those dental offices in the medical centers and the posters on their wall showing gangrenes and tooth decays and all the atrocities that will happen if you don’t visit the dentist regularly? And maybe you had a dentist who said: it won’t hurt at all and then you experienced terrible pain. That’s how the mistrust evolved.

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Wikipedia states that the fear of dentists is 30% inheritable and the fear of pain even 34%. I found an article that reported about the newest research run by the University of Toronto. That was the first nationwide research in Canada about the fear of the dentist and the researchers came to the conclusion that women report their fear of dentist more but that was because women don’t hesitate to talk about their emotions as much as men do and that the fear of dentists among men mostly goes unreported. They also found that young and healthy men are the ones who faint in the dentist’s office.

I think that today we are living in a wonderful time of technological advancement that enabled us innumerable benefits in our every-day lives. Only 200 years ago a simple tooth decay could endanger our lives. Teeth were pulled out not treated and they were pulled out without anesthesia by barbers or relatives because dentists didn’t even exist. And today your dentists offer anesthesia for the smallest procedure that could feel uncomfortable.

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Before taking a seat at the dentist’s office it’s best to speak up about your fears with him, but do it in the waiting room and not in his office. Agree on a safe sign that you’ll use if it hurts. And if you can’t stand the sound of the dental grinding instrument put on your earphones and distract yourself with examining the ceiling, lamp or a picture on the wall. Breath deeply. And by all means, think about the origin of your fear and catch yourself in the act of your choosing the train of thought that leads to paranoia and become conscious of it.

-Andja Maric

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