Why are so many patients afraid of going to the dentist?

I believe that a big reason for this is a negative experience, usually during childhood. I always try to understand where the anxiety of my patients comes from and a lot of them tell me that they found the dentist who treated them as a child was not nice and proceeded with the treatment even when they were not properly numb. On the other hand, we want to help people and there is surely no dentist waking up thinking, “Maybe I can hurt someone today.” Such misunderstandings happen when there is a lack of communication between the dentist and the patient.

Every patient has different expectations. Some don’t want to feel anything during the treatment as they have a lower pain-threshold, some of them are more afraid due to the loss of control, and some of them are very sensitive to the noises of the instruments like burs. I worked a couple of years in the Netherlands and most of my patients didn’t want me to give them an injection for a filling. So I was used to asking them upfront whether or not they would prefer to get numb. When I came to Dubai and started asking my first patients about this, almost everyone looked at me as if I were a sadist who enjoys hurting people. That showed me how different expectations can be and that these misunderstandings might lead to bad experiences.

How can you avoid developing dental anxiety?

I think prevention is one of the keys. It can’t be stated enough. It’s important that especially all children visit the dentist for regular check-ups on a regular basis and not only if they have pain. If your first visit is when you have pain then it’s much more difficult to build trust, having the dentist come along with a needle and want the child to believe that it is for his or her best. I see a correlation between the amount of “treatments” such as fillings or extractions at a young age and the development of dental anxiety. The more procedures are done, led to more probable patients with a larger amount of anxiety.

How can you deal with the situation if you’ve already developed anxiety?

Personally, one of the most important factors in helping anxious patients is actually having enough time to spend with them. Every patient presents an individual set of circumstances that has led to their fear. It’s very important to see the patient’s personal requirements, not just focusing on their teeth. By taking the time to listen to their needs, fears and history, you can develop a better understanding of how to walk the path together as a team.

For example: if someone is afraid of needles, I need to take extra time to numb the area of injection by using numbing gel or spray. Then you have to give the injection very, very slowly as the patient will feel much less. Of course, we also have professional technical support to address certain aspects. This includes having the opportunity of sedation for people who are a bit more anxious. Additionally, we have situated TV’s on the ceiling of each treatment room to offer a certain distraction from the fact that you’re in a dental chair. All of these are nice to have, although the most important factor is to have an understanding dentist to whom you have a good bond.

Is there a way to “heal” dental anxiety?

I’m not certain you can heal anxiety in the general sense of the word “heal”. For me, its success is measured by the patient’s ability to have the treatment they desire, in a way they feel most comfortable about it.

At Micris Dental Clinic, our dental team always prioritizes the patient’s needs so they are given the best dental solution at the highest level of comfort and have a luxurious experience. You can expect a safe dental procedure, where I will guide you through your treatment plan step-by-step to have a better understanding of the process of each procedure.

Dr. Khasha Ilbak
General & Cosmetic Dentist (Germany)