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 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.
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 Jers