Although dental phobia is to some extent understandable, it’s still not good. People with dental phobia tend to avoid regular dental visits, which significantly impacts oral health and even general health. Because a smile is also a highly visible social and professional asset, they may experience problems in professional and social relationships. Worst of all, dental phobia can make itself worse so that people avoid the dentist more and problems can become more severe with time.
How Dental Phobia Makes Itself Worse
The biggest problem with dental phobia is that it gets worse rather than getting better when it’s left alone. One of the chief causes of dental phobia is fear of pain at the dentist. By focusing on the potential for pain, phobics almost guarantee that they will experience it. When you’re stressed, your body resists local and general anesthesia. Worrying about pain raises stress levels, which speeds your metabolism and causes your body to break down and eliminate anesthesia faster, so you’re more likely to experience pain.
You also tense your muscles, such as in your head, neck, and jaw, which will lead to soreness.
Dental phobia also causes people to avoid dental care. The more a person avoids dental care, the more likely they are to need more invasive dental procedures. These require more time in the dental chair and may be accompanied by more discomfort. Having repeated experiences with invasive and painful dental procedures makes the dental phobic avoid dental appointments even more.
Oral and General Health Consequences
Avoiding dental care makes people with dental phobia more likely to suffer oral health problems, which can contribute to general health problems.
People with dental phobia are more likely to suffer from gum disease. In addition to increasing their risk of tooth loss, gum disease can contribute to a number of serious general health problems. The health problems most strongly linked with gum disease are diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy complications.
Diabetes has a reciprocal relationship with gum disease: it makes gum disease worse, and gum disease makes diabetes worse. Gum disease contributes to heart disease because bacteria from the gums can colonize the blood vessels around the heart, and even the heart itself. Gum disease bacteria are a major component of arterial plaque–clogged arteries. When this plaque breaks free, it can travel to the brain and block the narrow blood vessels there, resulting in a stroke.
Gum disease is associated with preterm birth and low birthweight, although the mechanism is not exactly clear.
People with dental anxiety may suffer poor sleep connected directly to their anxiety or in relation to dental pain because of lack of treatment.
Quality of Life and Other Problems
People with dental phobia are more likely to report that their quality of life is negatively impacted by their oral health. People with dental anxiety are more likely to suffer distracting dental pain, difficulty biting or chewing, and other aspects of oral health quality of life.
People with dental anxiety are more likely to be unhappy with the appearance of their smile, and suffer negative self-esteem as a result. They’re more likely to miss work as a result of oral health problems, and may have difficulty getting and maintaining a job because of their poor oral health.
People who are self-conscious about their smile may have more difficulty establishing and maintaining social and romantic relationships–most single men and women value a smile as the most desired quality in a partner.
Dental Anxiety Can Be Overcome
The good news for sufferers of dental phobia is that it can often be overcome. There are many options for addressing dental phobia. To learn which one might be right for you, please contact a local NuCalm dentist today.