The Fear Is Real
As most dentists will attest, one of the greatest pleasures of dental practice is seeing the joy in a patient's face when they receive a new smile or other life-changing treatment. Whether through implant therapy, new veneers, periodontal surgical repair, or any other countless transformative dental procedures, a successful treatment outcome can be extremely satisfying, for both patient and doctor.
But what if the dentist never gets the chance to "work their magic" for the patient? Dental fear is a very real, potentially crippling problem that affects many patients, often keeping them from even visiting the dentist. While roughly half the population reportedly has at least some level of dental anxiety-after all, no one wants pointy instruments poking around in their mouth-about one in 10 suffers from the more serious condition of dental phobia. This more intense disorder can leave people panic-stricken and cause them to avoid the dentist at all cost.
Fortunately, there are ways to accommodate such patients, as we see in our first continuing education (CE) article this month. While the authors emphasize the importance of prioritizing nonpharmacological methods, they review various pharmacological techniques that may be used to assuage dentally anxious patients. From patient selection, to clinical presentations of dental anxiety, to the different pharmacological options available to clinicians, this article demonstrates the impact of dental anxiety and describes strategies available for general dentists. The authors also stress the need to follow guidelines set out by local medical and dental regulatory governing bodies.
In our other CE article, we conclude the discussion from last month regarding "graftless" implantology. In this month's Part 2, the authors specifically examine the use of zygomatic and individualized subperiosteal implants as alternatives to extensive bone grafting, thereby eliminating the potential complications-and patient anxiety-that may accompany it.
The implementation of digital dentistry could also be beneficial in helping to alleviate dental fear in patients. This month's Special Report focuses on the rise of intraoral scanners and how their usage helps streamline workflow protocols and simplify and ease procedures for the patient.
Dental anxiety is real and should never be dismissed. Anything dentists can do to reduce patient fear should be explored.
Markus B. Blatz, DMD, PhD