Monday, June 11, 2012

Understanding fear of dentists

Penn has several elective courses that we can take in addition to the core lectures, and one of them is “Understanding Dental Phobia”. When there is an entire movie about a crazy dentist who uses his tools to “dentally torture” people… I doubt that helps.

I stumbled upon a website entirely devoted to dental fears called Dental Fear Central.

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I especially like the “Common Fears” section. You can think about why you are afraid of going to the dentist. Is it embarrassment about judgment? Fear of gagging? For me, it is the loss of control. Since you can’t see what is going on (and all this is happening to your face) you can’t even escape if you wanted to. The website suggests tips on talking with your dentist to overcome these fears. For example, if lying completely on your back makes you feel uncomfortably vulnerable, you can ask your dentist to have you partially sitting up.

When I went to a family friend who is a dentist, he stopped every five minutes to hold up a mirror. Since he knew I was heading to dental school, he spent the entire treatment explaining what he was doing and showing me what was going on inside my mouth. At one point my molar looked like a taco shell. But the visit was almost… enjoyable.

What part of going to the dentist are you afraid of?
What do you do to relieve these fears?

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