Dental Anxiety and Survivors Of Abuse New York City
Dental Phobia And Abuse
Often patients have not felt comfortable sharing feelings of abuse and their true cause with strangers, and sometimes even their spouses. This causes patients to be particularly uncomfortable, because they know others may consider their behavior inexplicable, and yet the patient can’t stop the dental anxiety and fear behind it. As time passes, and patients haven’t been able to go to the dentist, their dental condition can worsen. This only increases patients’ embarrassment and leads to further avoidance of the dentist.
Often when patients finally do go to the dentist, they can face criticism for their dental absence, leading to further avoidance and loss of self esteem. Many patients don’t know how to escape this downward spiral and aren’t aware that real help is possible for them. The nice thing is that, over the years, we’ve found it surprisingly easy to relieve patients of this “dental anxiety” burden. Given the opportunity, and a secure feeling that they are understood, patients are often glad to open up and be frank about why it’s been so hard for them to have dental care in the past.
Survivors of abuse store their traumatic memories in a place in their brains called the amygdala. This center mediates the “fight or flight reflex.” Because it’s a reflex, patients don’t have control over their desire to run from the office, put their hands up, hold the dentists’ hands, or even bite the dentist. These behaviors are literally “fight or flight” responses, and they are overpowering for patients. There is good news, however. The proper use of medication can make the dental experience a “non-event.” Patients are able to have dental care without experiencing fear or dental anxiety by using sedation.
It has been gratifying, on occasion, to hear that the experience for these patients has been life changing. Patients will tell us about new relationships, and new self esteem. Patients can make their mouths clean and healthy, with appealing smiles. For many survivors of abuse, this is something that they never thought was possible for them. Healing. It’s a step for many in turning their lives in a positive direction.
When a new patient comes to our office, we want to listen to them. We are grateful for the trust they often have to tell us about themselves, what they’ve been through, and their needs. Together, we plan how we can comfortably restore, and care for them.
What are some reasons for the resistance to dental care?
We understand how the details of a dental visit can bring up overwhelming feelings for abuse, assault, or trauma survivors. These may include being reclined to horizontal in a dental chair, having objects placed in your mouth, or having hands near your face. Our team recognizes these difficulties and is here to help and support you. Every member of our team is dedicated to providing you a positive dental experience. A series of good dental experiences can help you overcome dental anxiety.
What are some symptoms reported by those with dental anxiety who are also abuse, assault, or trauma survivors?
A history of abuse could lead to a patient suffering from depression and low self-esteem, and this can make the patient feel they are not worthy of proper health care, including dental care. Specific to dental care, these issues can trigger anxiety and other reactions:
- Being in close proximity to the adjacent person with their hands near the face and in the mouth while in the dental chair.
- Sights, sounds, smells, foul tastes, and irritating tactile sensations.
- The appearance of a clinician can remind a survivor of their abuser.
- Viewing the ceiling while lying in the dental chair can trigger memories of abuse.
Is dental anxiety more common among men or women?
Dental anxiety is more common in women than in men. This has proven to be the case in numerous studies, with almost 17 percent of women having phobic levels of dental fear compared to 7 percent of men.
Is it possible for a patient to experience dental fear and not understand its relationship to previous abuse?
These are two areas where a patient may not understand the relationship between the care they are receiving at our offices and their former episodes of abuse:
- Feelings of helplessness and loss of control — It’s common for abuse survivors to associate aspects of dental treatment to their abuse. Sitting in a dental chair with their mouth open, not being able to control the situation, and being unable to see what is going on can all trigger unpleasant memories and feelings.
- Embarrassment and loss of personal space — Abuse survivors often need to maintain personal space in response to their abuse where their space was violated. Dental treatment, by its nature, involves people being quite close to the patient and having to touch the patient’s face. This can trigger unpleasant associations. Also, patients who have been anxious or phobic about visiting the dentist are often embarrassed at the condition of their oral health.
What to discuss with your dentist? Communication is important
Talk about your needs, any concerns, and how we can help you through it. We will listen. Your initial visit can simply be a talking appointment.
Let us know if you experience panic attacks, flashbacks, or dissociation. You can tell us about past experiences or not; you do not have to disclose a history of past trauma. Explain what we can do to help put you at ease. Do you need to take short breaks? Do you want us to explain every step or would you prefer headphones with good music and to not know all the details? Do you have a gender preference that would make you more comfortable? Ask us questions. Communication is essential so we can provide personalized care and do what is right for you.
Is sedation a good solution to dental anxiety?
Sedation can help with relaxation. Depending on anxiety levels, there are many sedation solutions and ways to help stay comfortable and calm for dental treatment. Learn more about sedation dentistry here.
We offer a calm, welcoming environment. Our team is here to provide exceptional dental care with empathy. We want you to feel valued, understood, and supported in our dental office.
What are the different options for helping with my anxiety?
Dr. Siegelman’s extensive experience helping our patients overcome their dental anxiety has fine-tuned the appropriate medications for anxiety in our patients. We’ve found that anxiety is successfully treated with benzodiazepine anxiolytics. These include triazolam (Halcion), midazolam (Versed, Nayzilam, Seizalam), lorazepam (Ativan, Tavor, Temesta), or alprazolam (Xanax).
What can I do prior to my dental visit to reduce my anxiety?
Dealing with your anxiety prior to your appointment with Dr. Siegelman can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to help decrease your anxiety and make it easier to keep your appointment and be on the road to a healthy, beautiful smile.
Try these tips to lower your anxiety before coming to see us:
- Make it an easy day. Leave time around your appointment, so you’re not in a rush. This makes getting to your appointment as stress-free as possible and keeps you relaxed and calm.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Deep breathing techniques are important for everyone when encountering stressful situations. When in our waiting room or when waiting for your hygienist or Dr. Siegelman, be sure to breathe deeply.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar. The morning of your appointment, skip the coffee and donut. Sugars and caffeine can make you jittery and even anxious.
- Keep up with your care. By focusing on prevention, you can help keep dental treatment to a minimum. Try to keep up with your cleanings and exams, as that’s the way to keep the next appointment as simple as possible. Some of our patients are worried that past lapses in care have led to the need for very involved appointments. That’s not how we look at things; no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen a dentist, we will work together to get you the care you need.
- Communicate. Be sure to ask questions and tell us if there’s anything we can do to make you more comfortable. If you’re anxious about the treatment you’re going to receive, Dr. Siegelman can explain the entire process to you. He will include what we are doing to ensure your comfort and ease of treatment. If you prefer to tune everything out and not know all the steps involved, that’s fine too. Just let us know how you’re feeling.
What are some helpful tips for coping with my dental fear?
Dr. Siegelman has centered his practice around understanding and completely catering to patients suffering from dental anxiety or dental phobia. All of our treatments are focused on helping patients gain the benefits of good dental health without the painful or disturbing sensations and associations.
There are things you can do on your own to help you cope with your dental fear:
- Practice deep breathing
- Find a meditation method that works for you
- Distract yourself by listening to music or the use of digital devices
- Use guided imagery
- Learn progressive muscle relaxation
There are many things we can do to help ease your mind and lift the burden of dental anxiety. Our entire team is here to support you every step; from the first phone call to dental treatment to routine care, your comfort is always our top priority.
Consult Dr. Siegelman for Dental Anxiety Relief in NYC!
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 nearby areas. Our practice looks forward to serving you!