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If you have dental fear …

If you have dental fear …


Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya


You are aware that dentists make you sit on their dental-chairs not similar to couches at your homes.  When you look around from dental-chairs, you realize that the surroundings are not similar to your living rooms.  You see various dental instruments and some employees wearing masks.  You also know that your dentists will make you open your mouth and do things that you would not normally do at home.  This nature of disorientation is perhaps enough to spin many of you out of your comfort zones.  However, it is not this nature of disorientation that is known as dental-anxiety, dental-fear or dental-phobia.


Dental-anxiety is a feeling of nervousness or uneasiness of visiting a dental office or receiving dental treatment.  In contrast, dental-phobia is extreme or terrified fear.   What is generally known as dental-fear rest in between these two.  In other words, dental-anxiety, dental-fear or dental-phobia is mild to severe variations of dental fears.


If you have had a direct negative experience at a dental office, there is a chance that you may develop dental fear.  If one of your immediate family members or best friends had a negative experience, you may have used their experience also to compound on your fears.  In addition to this, there are other indirect negative experiences such as anecdotal negative stories in mass media and feeling of helplessness that can compound on dental fear.  Those who have dental fears habitually avoid professional dental care until they experience a dental emergency requiring invasive treatment.  In fact, invasive treatment often reinforces fear of dentistry.


If you have dental fear, you may want to try the following to reduce or overcome your difficulties. 

 •  Find a dentist who is able to communicate in your language of choice.  This will breakdown communication barriers and provide an opportunity to build trust. 

 •  Once you have found the dentist, visit the dental office, meet the receptionist and talk to the dentist.  See the environment in person. 

 •  Cut down the dwelling time before a dental appointment.  Ask for a morning appointment.  Don’t think too much of your fear.

•  Agree first to have a small procedure at the dental office, enabling to have a positive experience.  Do not wait till a minor procedure become a major one.  Usually, minor fears turn into major fears when anticipating a major procedure. 

 •  Listen to your personal choice of music during your visit. 

 •  Come to a signaling agreement with the dentist to have an immediate stop, need a break, more suction, etc. 

 •  Many of the general dentistry can be done with local anesthetics (a numbing solution).  However, let the dentist know if you prefer a particular type of sedation (a method of putting to sleep).


Although all Canadian dentists are trained today with improved sedation methods and comfort-maximizing dental instrumentation, finding a dentist that you feel comfortable will allow you to have pleasant experiences with your routine dental care.


Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya, BDS (Peradeniya), DMD (UBC), is a dentist who practices in New Westminster & Surrey.  She is a Clinical Instructor at the UBC and was a Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya.


Sri Lanka Times (BC, Canada), October 2012

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