How many of us can say that we actually enjoy going to the dentist? It’s not an inherently appealing activity. It’s useful and necessary, sure. But what’s so great about sitting in a chair, head tilted backwards and having to keep your mouth open for a long period of time which leads to discomfort, all while listening to the “soothing” sound of a drill and savoring the typical smell of disinfectant and the materials used for fillings? You can’t even see what’s going on inside your own mouth. 

So it’s not at all unusual to not feel any enthusiasm when having to make an appointment. It may also be part of our culture from the time when dental anesthesia became safe enough to be widely used and most visits to the dentist resulted in tooth extraction. 

Ironically, one of the most common dreams people have is that their teeth are falling out.

Teeth Dreams. What Do They Mean and Why Do We Have Them?

Teeth dreams or TD are 
one of the most common, recurrent themes in people’s dreams. Surveys found that 39% of respondents had at least one, 16.2% have had several and 8.2% have them on a regular basis. 

They typically involve teeth falling out, teeth rotting or breaking. 

They’re so common that explanations were offered by Artemidorus in Ancient Greece – he thought they were linked to paying one’s debts, by the Jewish Talmud – impeding death of someone from the family (the connection to death was far-reaching belief for many years)  and Jung said that for women it meant an association to giving birth. 

Freud linked TD with sexual elements, that’s not very surprising, but he also suggested that they might be caused be some sort of dental stimuli, an idea that was explored by others in his time as well. 

further study investigated the hypothesis that the sensations produced by bruxism – the tendency to grind your teeth during sleep, is what leads to teeth dreams. An estimated 85 to 90% of the population grind their teeth at least occasionally so this theory might be valid, especially since most people don’t realize they’re doing it unless someone else hears the noises and tells them.  

Dental Anxiety vs. Dental Phobia

We already established that not many people look forward to going to the dentist but some report feeling fear and stress at the prospect of entering their dentist’s office, this is called dental anxiety. When the symptoms are especially severe, to the point that they avoid going completely, even if they have to put up with considerable amounts of discomfort or pain, we’re talking about 
dental phobia

If you feel physically ill at the mere thought of having to see the dentist, you feel like crying and being in the waiting room makes you even more tense and jittery you probably have a phobia. Some people start to panic when they sense the 
specific smell associated with the setting to the point that they have problems breathing during the procedures. 

The consequences are that they avoid going, this leads to worsening dental issues that require more complex treatments which, in turn, are even scarier for the patients in a sort of vicious circle. If their intense fear hadn’t caused them to miss out on regular check-ups, 
prophylaxis – teeth cleaning, removing tartar which prevents gum disease and they had had their cavities looked at early on, they wouldn’t have needed the treatments that further feed their anxiety

Causes of Dental Phobia

Both dental anxiety and phobia can be 
linked to other conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, depression, mood disorders and PTSD as numerous studies have shown.

Many people may have had a negative experience with dentists while they were children and this has made a lasting impression. 

The fear of injections or fear of needles can be another cause for avoidance as local anesthesia is often needed for procedures like root canals. 

Some view their mouths as a very intimate part of their bodies and having the dentist look inside or do work on their teeth is seen as extremely intrusive. In some cases, it’s also the physical closeness from the dentist’s face being mere inches away from theirs. They can get nervous or feel embarrassed or ashamed, thinking that they’re being judged for the state of their teeth or that the staff is making assumption about their overall level of cleanliness. 

For others, the anxiety results from 
not being in control of the situation, not being able to see what’s happening, not being able to speak and to predict what’s going to happen next. Similar to how some people find it scarier to be in the passenger’s seat than driving the car themselves. 

Options for Managing Dental Anxiety

Of course, dentists are aware of the fact that once they put on their white coats they become very frightening to the general population and that’s why you’ll see that many try to make their offices look friendly and welcoming, they’ll play soothing music on the background and keep talking to the patients informing them of everything they’re doing. It’s a bit difficult to keep the conversation going if your interlocutor answers through facial expressions and nods. 

One options is 
sleep sedation dentistry which is normally used for more invasive procedures but it’s safe for more routine treatments as well, if the patient experiences high levels of anxiety. 

On the other hand, some people are afraid of this level of anesthesia and, in this case, there are other possibilities. 

Sedation through 
nitrous oxide or laughing gas can help patients relax during the appointments while they remain awake. It has the added benefit of being administered through a mask so it’s not invasive, and it gives a very pleasing state.  

A short acting, single dose of anxiety relieving medication can be prescribed by your GP or dentist but it’s better to have someone accompany you to the appointment since you’re not allowed to drive afterwards so you’d need to take a taxi. 

Author's Bio: 

Cynthia Madison