Stomatophobia: what to do when fear of the dentist gets out of hand?
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Stomatophobia: what to do when fear of the dentist gets out of hand?

If very few people like go to their dentist, for some people it is a real anxiety. Almost one person in two is even affected in France according to a 2016 Opinion Way survey: significantly more women (55%) than men (40%) and in particular the age group of 25-34 year olds (54 %). This phobia has a name, stomatophobia, as researcher Ellie Heidari of King’s College London Dental Institute explains in the journal The Conversation. People who suffer from it are ready to delay this medical appointment until the last moment despitedental problems with consequences for their health as well as their social life.

Whatever the cause (fear of pain, of the bite, of the instruments …) this situation causes a vicious circle in these people who deprive themselves of this type of care. Indeed, Professor Ellie Heidari explains that “when patients have postponed the moment to go to their dentist for a long time, the probability that the care required when they decide to go there is complex (treatment of the root canal, crown placement, surgical extraction, etc.) greatly increases. ” Untreated cavities can for example progress towards an inflammation of the pulp, besides infectious complications on the level of the face can occur at the stage of abscess.

MEOPA inhalation sedation: a real plus

So, “for the patient, it often means spending more time in the dentist’s chair, and risk suffering more after the operation, “said the researcher. Another problem is that of taking charge of the person once installed in the office. But the article specifies that there are solutions dedicated to these patients, in the first place a specific sedation. Some dentists may indeed offer a technique called equimolar mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide (MEOPA), effective in 3 to 5 minutes and devoid of contraindications. According to the UFSBD (French Union for Oral Health), it is the most reliable and safe technique for obtaining conscious sedation without side effects.

“Placed in altered state of consciousness but without sleeping, patients remain in verbal contact with the healthcare team and their cooperation improves significantly, with benefits that increase from session to session. Reconciled with dental care, some sometimes no longer even need MEOPA over time, “said the organization. People suffering from dental phobia can therefore look for firms specializing in this field, which offer, for example, longer appointment periods. But the latter often have to deal with substantial waiting lists, which can again dangerously delaytheir care.

Other ways to help patients

Another possibility is that of being referred to a hospital for general anesthesia. Hospitals and practitioners can also use a completely different technique, cognitive behavioral therapies (TBI) so that these patients can overcome their phobia. According to the definition of Health Insurance, it is a “work on behavior and thoughts, opinions and beliefs that are called cognitions. This therapy does not seek the origin of the problems but aims to treatvisible manifestations ”. Ranging from ten to twenty sessions, it is practiced by doctors (generalists or psychiatrists) or psychologists trained in this technique. “A previous study at King’s College London found that this approach was very effective, allowing people with stomatophobia to overcome their fear of going to the dentist and even to receive treatments without sedation, “added the researcher.

The last line of intervention is based on further prevention in these patients, with more personalized advice for improve their oral hygiene (brushing technique, smoking cessation …). This improved knowledge should help promote better oral hygiene to limit the occurrence of other diseases and reduce this associated anxiety. to the dental consultation.

“Any phobia can be difficult to manage, but when it is a phobia affecting health and the quality of daily life, the effects can be devastating. Getting to control it not only helps patients who are victims today, but also those who may be tomorrow: indeed, research has shown that there are family predispositions to certain phobias “, concludes the researcher. But in the area of ​​prevention, the latest UFSBD survey indicates that the French do not respect all the usual precautions: 49% of them have not performed descaling for more than a year and 26% have not brushed their teeth twice a day.

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