Updated: Sep 25, 2018
Not everyone enjoys being in the presence of a pristine dental practice. Despite the need for regular oral care, some patients shudder at the thought of being in a dentist’s chair.
If you suffer from dental phobia, your basic senses serve as powerful environmental triggers, particularly your sight, smell and hearing. In some cases, mere images, sounds or smells you associate with dentistry are enough to induce feelings of anxiety or panic.
Smells Like Dental Practice – Scent as a Trigger
Odour is a powerful trigger. Cells inside the nose responsible for processing scent inputs, send direct signals to the olfactory bulb—a part of your limbic system. Unlike the other senses, sensory information immediately passes the brain’s emotional centre. This results in fear when you smell scents associated with dentistry.
Some dental practices help patients by reducing the use of strong scents in the clinic. Dentists refrain from using eugenol (oil of cloves) due to its strong scent. Other practices use aromatherapy to place anxious patients in a relaxed setting.
What You See is What You Fear – Sight as a Trigger
Years before, dentists laid their instruments out in plain sight on a tray. Patients who have dental phobia see these and begin imagining scary scenarios.
The fear stems from the thought of these instruments placed inside their mouths. There are many pictures, particularly online, of the things that strike fear in the hearts of many dental patients, making them more afraid of visiting a dentist.
In reality, dentists work in a way that conceals the tools. You might see these before the procedure but dentists show you how they work to alleviate some of your worries. For patients who wish to see what is going on, you can request the dentist to show the procedure through a mirror.
The Sound of a Drill = Anxiety – Sound as a Trigger
Dental practices often evoke the thought of drills, which create a sound people equate with pain. If you experienced a painful procedure accompanied with the sound of a dental tool, you associate the pain with the sound.
Fortunately, dentists use instruments that make little or no sound at all. No need to imagine the painful procedure as you sit in the chair.