Dental anxiety, or fear of the dentist, is a constant and returning problem. Every dentist has stories about patients running out of the office, needing to be sedated, and other potentially wacky hijinks. But dental anxiety is a serious issue, and can cause undue pain and suffering, and is an issue that is heightened greatly by the even the slightest hint of communication problems. The existence of the communication issues can be fictional or very real, but truthfully, it is enough for a patient who is already suffering from dental anxiety issues to perceive that there is a communication problem for faith to be lost and for the situation to get out of hand.
A full one third of people have a phobia of going to the dentist. While it may be obvious that no one in their right mind likes to go to the dentist for anything more complicated than a checkup, most people will be able to endure being at the dentists office to get necessary treatment and get on with their lives. Those patients suffering from this phobia may not be able to do so, and may simply have an irrational fear of the dentist. The keyword with phobias is definitely ‘irrational’, as the patient will definitely know and understand that they need the treatment, and that the dentist does not want to hurt them, but being able to rationalize a situation does not equal being able to do something about it. Just because you know, on a certain level, that you don’t need to be afraid, does not mean that you will not be. Such is the human mind, and these reactions are not rational, yet they exist.
The problem is that not going to the dentist will eventually result in not just one or two fillings, but potentially lethal conditions developing, like periodontitis and blood poisoning, and even infections in the bone marrow of the jaw. This is of course besides the usual symptoms of toothache, bad breath and a loss of confidence in one’s ability to smile freely.
In a situation where the patient experiences this sort of anxiety, it is vital that the dentist and the staff do everything in their power to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. A patient who may have taken years to gather the courage to go to the dentist may be on the verge of panicking to begin with, and a strong accent, or unclear communication may be that necessary small push to send them over the brink into a full fledged panic. This is why foreign dentists need to be extra careful when seeing patients who are suffering from dental anxiety, and to make sure that they are doing the utmost to communicate clearly and precisely.
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