What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety refers to the fear of dentistry and of receiving dental care. A pathological form of this fear (specific phobia) is variously called dental phobia, odontophobia, dentophobia, dentist phobia, or dental anxiety. However, it has been suggested that the term “dental phobia” is often a misnomer, as many people with this condition do not feel their fears to be excessive or unreasonable, and resemble individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by previous traumatic dental experiences.
About Your Dental Anxiety
Many people with severe dental anxiety, also called dental phobia, have difficulty understanding why they have such a prolonged avoidance of the dentist. They don’t know why their heart pounds, their palms sweat, and they often lose sleep before dental appointments. Such a dental fear reaction is mostly a learned response to previous dental, medical or life traumas. The sense of dental anxiety, panic, and dread that people experience, called panic attacks or anxiety attacks, are an involuntary reflex that no one can completely control. The good news is that that we can virtually eliminate these fearful dental experiences through the use of various types of sedation and good communication.
Results Of Dental Anxiety
Traumatic memories can sometimes be unlearned, primarily through a series of good experiences, sometimes aided by medication. The effects of traumas can reinforce each other. It can be said that new traumas actually reawaken old traumas. These traumatic memories are stored in a place in the brain that mediates the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is a short circuit that is designed to allow us to respond instantly, without conscious thought, to something that the brain believes is life-threatening. Our adrenaline pumps and we feel the physiologic need to run away, bite, reach out, grab or kick, all in response to a perceived threat stored in a more primitive, less conscious part of the brain. It’s a terrible feeling; one that patients say they would do anything to avoid. That’s why dental anxiety is such a deeply held, primal feeling.
Patients with a sensitive gag reflex at the dentist, or who have difficulty with novocaine, often struggle at the dentist from a very young age, leading to a lifetime of dental anxiety and fear. Children who have been held down for injections, throat cultures, or minor medical procedures often remember their experience and point to it as the original source of their dental anxiety. Victims of abuse as children frequently suffer anxiety and depression as adults and may also manifest dental phobia as well. Over the years, we’ve found that using sedation provides a comfortable dental experience that enables people in need to get help. Often for the first time, people feel like it’s possible for them to have healthy teeth and smiles.
Chronic pain can lead to depression and avoidance of the dentist. Everyone has a limit to their suffering. Intravenous sedation allows us to use every pathway possible to make the dental experience a comfortable one.
Our professional and caring team is dedicated to helping you overcome your dental anxiety.
Bringing You The Softer Side Of Dentistry
Over 35 million Americans have some level of anxiety when it comes to going to the dentist. But for many, it is more than being afraid. Some of our patients have had a traumatic experience in a dental chair; others come from a painful past. Regardless of your personal history, we are here to help. We understand that your dental fear may have kept you from a dentist, but there is no need to feel embarrassed. We are not here to judge you; we are here to help you and encourage you so that you can have the confidence a beautiful smile can bring.
- A man struggling with the embarrassment of his teeth now has the confidence to succeed, go for job interviews, and form new personal relationships
- A woman who once couldn’t show her teeth when she spoke has now started her own business.
- A woman whose past experiences left her unable to trust anyone has since put her faith in our office.
For some people, having avoided dental care because of fear of pain or embarrassment, having bad teeth is a major problem. Many such people believe that comfortable dental care is not possible for them. Our team has been proud to have helped many people remove the dental anxiety burden they bear so that their teeth will no longer be a problem for them in their daily lives.
Why do people trust our softer side of dentistry? Because we give you a safe place to bring your smile.
Your Comfort is Our First Priority
Whether you feel it in the serenity of the paintings that hang on our walls, in the team’s warm greetings and attention to your needs, or while you listen to soothing sounds on stereo headphones, you’ll understand that we cater to your comfort. Our goal is to provide dental care without dental anxiety, fear, or pain. That is why we not only listen to your needs, but we keep you informed of all your options. Dr. Siegelman as Diplomate of the prestigious American Dental Board of Anesthesiology and Director of Dental Anesthesiology at Lutheran Medical Center and our team have the knowledge and expertise to help you through each phase of your treatment. Our team will discuss your options and decide on the type of anesthesia that is most appropriate for you.
What Our Patients Are Saying
“Dr. Siegelman has created the perfect environment for overcoming dental anxiety. I never thought it was possible, but I literally have 0 fear/anxiety after years with him. I stood outside the office and canceled appointments because the anxiety was so severe, I just couldn’t go in. He’s the 1st dentist who didn’t shame me, get angry at me, etc. Instead he and his excellent staff worked with me to get me in and moving forward on dental problems I’d had for over a decade. … Dr. Siegelman is an artist as well as empathetic. What he’s accomplishing with my destroyed teeth and gums after decades of smoking and dental neglect is a miracle. He’s healed more than my mouth. My self esteem, joy, and confidence is through the roof and I’m so grateful.”
The Possibility of a Beautiful Smile
Over the years, our team has helped thousands of people regain the confidence a beautiful smile can bring. With a caring approach, we give each patient a dental experience more comfortable than they ever thought possible.
Regardless of a patient’s personal history with dental care, our team can help. At our office, we are dedicated to providing comfortable dentistry, even to patients who have not seen a dentist for years or even decades. And for many patients, our approach has changed their lives.
Dental Phobia And Childhood Abuse
Dental anxiety and fear is frequently linked to a history of childhood or adult abuse. I have found that this is one of the most common reasons for a patient to seek care in my office, and to seek that care with some form of sedation. Abuse as a child can cause an individual to grow up with a myriad of different emotional issues, which may or may not include dental phobia. Patients may feel tremendously burdened and embarrassed by these past events, and that carries over into the dental environment.
Gagging and Dental Visits
A sensitive gag reflex is a source of great concern and dental anxiety and embarrassment for many people. It’s often beyond an individual’s ability to control. Children are especially affected because adults may not fully understand how physically difficult it is for them. Kids may be easily embarrassed, particularly if they vomit.
Children frequently need a long series of visits, often over a period of years if they require orthodontics (braces). A sensitive gag reflex can be a childhood battle when kids are sick and need to take medications or swallow pills.
These events can add up to a series of traumatic episodes that leave the patient with dental anxiety and dental phobia as an adult. Patients may also have a gag reflex or intolerance of foreign objects in their mouth relating to a traumatic, abusive past. Intolerance to foreign objects in the mouth, sensitivity to tastes, textures and even foods can also be caused by a condition termed, sensory integration dysfunction.
Needle phobia is a severe fear of needles or injections of any kind. Some people are fearful of injections only in the dental environment.
Difficulty Getting Numb
If you have had any trouble getting numb in the past, our team is here to help. There are many solutions for you to be comfortably numb for dental treatment. Your comfort is our priority.
Certain situations can be overwhelming and can trigger past traumatic experiences. A dental visit can sometimes bring up past memories that hold you back from taking care of your oral health.
Call Today To Learn How Dr. Siegelman Can Help
Dr. Louis Siegelman has extensive experience treating patients with dental anxiety, dental phobia, and needle phobia. Call today at (212) 974-8737 or fill out a Contact Form here to learn more about these problems in New York City, Westchester County, Long Island, Rockland County, New Jersey and Connecticut.