Leaving Fear of The Dentist & Dental Anxiety In The Past

Daniel Vinograd

Hello, this is Dr. Daniel Vinograd. I’m a biological dentist in San Diego. I’d like to speak to you today about dental phobia or fear of a dentist. I think a good majority of the patients that I’ve seen are afraid of the dentist. I would venture to guess that this large segment of the population are to some degree or another are very afraid of going to the dentist.

Sometimes the question of when did this fear come about comes up. I’d like to propose something a little bit different, a different way of looking at it, which is that we are born with fear and anxiety. It is not that we develop fear for things, but that we are actually born with fear and anxiety.

Let me elaborate a little bit. When we are first born as humans, as human animals, we are probably the most vulnerable animal, not really being able to fend for ourselves whatsoever and totally dependent on the caretakers. I can only imagine that that’s got to be a very anxiety-producing situation. We don’t know when we’re laying on our crib whether that shadow approaching us is our mother coming to feed us or an animal coming to eat us. So I’m theorizing that we are born with a high degree of anxiety and fear which actually serves us to survive.

childhood fear

Now what happens? How do we deals with inherent existential anxiety that I’m proposing we are all born with. I am again suggesting that how we deal with that is we balance it with our ability to connect with other people starting with caretakers, which could be mom or dad, whoever is taking care of us. As we begin to be taken care of, we start developing me some trust and that trust brings about some comfort.

And so it really varies from person to person based on the experiences that they have as infants, as young children – whether a good sense of comfort, a good sense of trusting is developed out of early relationships or not.

limbic region of the brain
The Limbic Region

Now if we are in fact able to connect well with other people as it is in our nature, part of our brain, the limbic brain that we share with other mammals really compels us to connect with other people as a survival mechanism, that is what brings about our level of comfort.

So my suggestion here is that when we first go or have gone to the dentist, there’s a certain degree of apprehension and there’s a certain degree of hope that we are not going to get hurt. So in a way, we’re kind of sitting on the fence when we go see a health professional, even more so a dentist.

You Are Not The Only One Afraid Of The Dentist

What I’m suggesting here is that we have all had various degrees of experiences with the dentist (some painful, some less painful), but in the past, a large number of those experiences had been uncomfortable at best and painful for the most part. So my contention here is that we go to the dentist for the first time, we’ve gotten hurt and that really wrote the trust that we’re hoping to develop and allows the fear and the anxiety to emerge once again.

How do we go from here? How do we actually take care of this situation? Well, a lot of people are looking for dentist that will sedate them or that would basically put them out altogether. That is the solution. That happens to help being a patient get treatment for that particular instance, but in fact we are only just postponing the inevitable and maybe making the fear of dentist even more acute. I believe long-term, that is not a good solution although it could be used on an emergency basis or when very, very extensive treatment is going to be performed.

And so my suggestion is that because of those experiences in the past, we have had a lot of imprinting and had some hesitation to go back to the dentist. What I want to talk about today is the difference between dental work even a decade work and what can happen today.

Can We Treat Fearful Patients? Absolutely.

In our office, we’re incredibly aware of the fact that most people have had some kind of traumatic or painful experience with the dentist that has actually a problem for them when they go to the dental office (and of course, it varies from person to person). Our commitment to our patients is number one, to have good communication so that if there’s anything that is uncomfortable, they can tell us and we can immediately take care of them. Second rule is not to hurt the patient. The third rule is not to hurt the patient.

You might ask how is that possible? It is quite possible. As a matter of fact, we really don’t hurt our patients with very, very, very few exceptions – when a patient might be coming in with a very hot tooth that needs to be treated and mostly we can actually just medicate and bring that tooth down to manageable condition and that is treated there. So very, very seldom will our patients experience any paint at all. I would say at most, some minor discomfort, but no more than that.

So how can we make a commitment not to hurt our patients. It really is about state of the art industry, about dentistry today versus dentistry 30 years ago, even 20 or 10 years ago. The advent of lasers and surgical microbrasion units and electrical motors that can actually work on very, very low speeds versus the old motors that will only work at 200, 250, 300 thousand rpms creating a great deal of heat. These electric motors actually work much cooler with less water. And so very often, we can actually do fillings without having to even anaesthetize the patient and the patient will experience absolutely no pain.

When in fact an anesthetic is needed, we will always make that decision for the patient so that we can keep the patient totally comfortable and out of pain. There are nowadays some very powerful topical anesthetics, little pastes that we can use at the beginning of the session that goes quite nicely even before we get started. We can use pH neutral anesthetics that the patient could hardly feel.

I’m not surprised anymore but I’m always quite happy to hear most of my patients say that the discomfort was either minimum or they did not feel the anesthetic at all.

So again we are all in a journey to try to cross this bridge together side by side with trusting relationships. And of course the trust has to come about first by dentist committing that to the patient and secondly by the patient being able to trust once again. Thank you.


For a Free Consultation with Dr. , please call (619) 630-7174.
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Dr. Daniel Vinograd, DDS |
10450 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92120 |
Phone: 619-630-7174    •    Dr. Vinograd, DDS, is a Dentist in San Diego, CA, offering services as a periodontist, and providing teeth whitening, dental crowns, invisalign, implants, lumineers, dentures, root canals, holistic, family and cosmetic dentistry.

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