When you think of common phobias, what comes to mind? You probably think about things like snakes, spiders, heights, and tight spaces. But the truth is that one of America’s greatest fears is the dentist. Between 5 and 8 percent of Americans avoid dentists because of this fear. An even higher percentage of people – roughly 20 percent – experience enough anxiety about going to the dentist that they only make an appointment when it’s absolutely necessary.
While some people are going to have a certain level of fear regarding dental procedures no matter what, the good news is that there have been tremendous advancements in recent years and new technology is making patient experiences easier, faster, and far less painful.
Understanding Dental Phobia and Anxiety
Before diving into some of the specific technological advancements in dentistry, it’s helpful to understand exactly what patients are fearful of. Every patient is unique, but the most common root causes of dental anxiety and phobia are:
- Pain. The most common anxiety is rooted in a fear of pain. Nobody likes to voluntarily walk themselves into a situation that may be painful and many adults – who likely had painful dental experiences earlier in life – simply avoid the dentist for this reason.
- Loss of control. Another common fear is the loss of control. Laying prostate with your mouth open and letting someone poke you with metal tools and probes doesn’t exactly give you a feeling of autonomy.
- Embarrassment. Finally, there’s the fear of embarrassment. The mouth is a very intimate part of the body and many patients feel a sense of shame when they have issues with their oral health. If nothing else, it makes many people feel uncomfortable.
The Technologies That Are Easing These Fears
Advancements in dental technology acknowledge the three most common fears patients have and allow dentists to create less painful and more “enjoyable” experiences. Let’s take a look:
1. Improved Dental Procedures
We’re going to discuss some of the different technologies that make people forget they’re at the dentist, but the biggest advancements actually involve the procedures themselves.
Take dental implants, for example. In the past, this type of procedure was painful, invasive, and prolonged. Today, specialized threads – similar to those on a screw – allow for much tighter fits and enable dentists to perform most implant procedures within the same day. This stands in stark contrast to the multiple visits and months of waiting/healing that was once required.
Cavity treatments have also become less painful. Many dentists are using laser-based technology to remove tooth decay and prevent the need for drilling away at teeth. It’s equally effective and far less intrusive.
2. Oral Sedation Dentistry
For some people, the pain isn’t even the worst part – it’s the fear of lying in a dentist chair and being poked and prodded. One technology that’s making this less of an issue is oral sedation dentistry.
With sedation dentistry, patients are given a safe oral drug – typically Halcion – which makes them drowsy and puts their mind at ease. They’re awake the entire time, but don’t feel the same anxiety that they would if they were awake.
3. Noise-Cancelling Device
Another noteworthy technology is the development of noise-cancelling devices that have the capability of blocking out the frequency of dental drills and other equipment that send shivers up the spines of patients.
Researchers in London are currently working on a device that allows patients to listen to music during a procedure, while cancelling out all frequencies of dental devices. Then there’s the development of a crowdfunded product, Knops, which is supposed to provide people with total silence. The makers haven’t addressed the possible application in dentistry, but there’s reason to believe it could be an effective option.
Less Pain, Less Fear
Dental phobia and anxiety are very real issues that a large percentage of the American population deals with. While it may seem strange to someone who is comfortable with a visit to the dentist, those in the profession know how serious it can be. These new technologies are eliminating common points of friction and making it possible for people to receive the oral care they need without experiencing significant anxiety.