Odontophobia. It’s kind of a funny word, but it’s no laughing matter. Odontophobia is the fear of going to the dentist - a fear that an estimated 10 percent of the population have so severely that it keeps them from attending routine dental exams. The danger in this, of course, is that if you don’t go to the dentist, you could be missing some very harmful oral health problems, like cavities, periodontitis or abscesses, all of which, if left untreated, can easily worsen and wreak major havoc on your mouth.
But even in patients with less severe cases, odontophobia can still do a lot of harm in the dental chair - at least that’s what a new study by the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, claims. The study analyzed dental students’ reactions to the body odor of 24 students to see if they subconsciously noticed a difference between fearful and non-fearful patients undergoing dental procedures. The students who provided samples each donated two shirts - one worn during a high-stress time, the other during a relaxed time. The researchers then sprayed each shirt with a fragrance to block out any noticeable scent and gave the shirts to dental students to smell. The dental students were unable to notice any difference between the calm and the stressed versions of each shirt.
Next, the shirts were put on mannequins and given to the dental students to operate on. Shockingly, when the students performed practice procedures on the mannequins that were wearing the stress shirts, they made more mistakes than they did on the mannequins wearing the calm shirts, proving that even subconsciously we can detect a scent of fear - and sometimes (at least in student dentists) that may affect the quality of our care!
So, what can you do if you have odontophobia but still want (and deserve!) the best care possible? Here are some helpful tips that don’t require you to change shirts - or douse yourself in perfume.
If you’re afraid of the dentist or procedure, be up front about it. Dr. Lederman is a skilled dentist and has worked with patients with all levels of odontophobia. If you let him and his staff know up front that you’re anxious, he will be happy to help ease your nerves during your visit, whether it's by explaining each step of the procedure, taking frequent breaks, letting you listen to soothing music, diffusing oils, or even offering nitrous oxide to help you relax.
If you know you are coming in for a procedure and you are anxious about it, try to soothe your nerves before you arrive. Avoid caffeine or anything that might make your heart race. Book a massage before your appointment or take a yoga class. Listen to soothing music in your car or carry a portable oil diffuser with lavender or other soothing essential oils. Try deep breathing techniques. If you would like to try nitrous oxide, check with your insurance plan in advance to be sure you are covered for it. If not, budget for the out-of-pocket cost so you aren’t surprised when you get the total at checkout. Get a ride to and from the office if driving will make you tense.
No, seriously! It may be innate human nature to sense fear, but Dr. Lederman has been doing this long enough to know how to work with even the tensest patients - and he’s much more skilled than your average dental student. Trust that you are in expert hands, and don’t worry about the results of a study done on student doctors. As that insurance commercial says, "You’re in good hands," so sit back, relax and let Dr. Lederman and his team provide you with compassionate, skilled, professional care.
To schedule your appointment with Dr. Lederman, please call the office at 516-882-1764.