Dental phobia can lead to serious health problems if it keeps you away from the dentist for too long. Dr. Milad Shadrooh discusses ways to overcome those fears.
What motivated you to become the Singing Dentist?
The Singing Dentist happened accidentally one day when a patient didn’t show up for a root canal appointment and then I started doing a rap freestyle to a song on the radio about root canals. I thought it was funny so I filmed myself and sent it to a dentist buddy who then posted it on social media. People seemed to like the song, and my style of delivery with the dancing eyebrows, and when I saw the response, I thought this could be a great way of combining my passion for dentistry and my passion for music to make fun parody videos to deliver oral health advice in a way people may respond to, and it seemed to work! More and more videos went viral and the engagement and response I get from them are what motivates me to continue as the content seems to make a difference to a lot of people, and I’m eternally grateful for the response and support it gets.
What causes patients to have anxiety over going to the dentist?
There are many reasons why people develop dental phobia or anxiety. We are only born with 2 fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears and phobias are learned and dental phobia is the same. It could stem from a previous bad experience at the dentist. It could be due to other people passing on their fear to you by telling you how horrible it is, so you learn to be afraid, despite having never had a bad experience yourself!
Sometimes, it is the fear of pain that makes you afraid of the dentist because you think what they are going to do is going to hurt you. Or it is the fear of the unknown because you don’t know what they are going to do to you and you’re in a vulnerable position, laying flat on your back with your mouth open, whilst a stranger puts their fingers in there; however, the good news is that just as these fears are learned, they can be un-learned, and we can overcome our fears with good positive experiences. Also, in my 18 years of experience, patients always say they thought the procedure is worse than what the procedure is actually like because our imagination can certainly run away from us at times!
How can dentists provide more comfort to their patients and ease their anxiety?
Usually, the best way of reducing anxiety is to take time to build rapport and trust with your patient and listen to their fears. Then, you can come up with ways to reduce those fears and this will likely take a few appointments and often, will involve no actual dentistry at all; instead, it will be all about acclimatizing the patient and working on reducing the triggers that cause them to fear. If the phobia is too established and the patients really cannot even be in a dental environment due to their fear, then we could use sedation to make patients more relaxed.
What advice do you have for patients that have a fear of going to the dentist?
First, I would tell them that they aren’t alone. Dental phobia is quite common but the good news is that it can be overcome. The key is to take that first step and get to a dentist to just have a conversation. You could ask friends and family which dentist they see and hopefully, they can recommend their dentist who is nice and doesn’t cause them any anxiety! When you get an appointment, you could start by discussing what makes you afraid and the dentist will work with you to help you conquer your fear.
The important message is that avoiding the dentist will not help and often, the fear will just build and build and the thought of what might happen is always much worse than what actually does happen. And the longer you leave a problem, the worse the treatment may actually be. Remember, preventing a problem is always much better than having to fix a problem.
What are some common oral health issues that come from neglecting proper oral care (including visiting a dental professional on a regular basis)?
The main dental problems are:
- Gum disease, causing bleeding gums, loss of gum, and loose teeth leading to teeth falling out
- Tooth decay, causes pain and holes in teeth, leading to broken and fractured teeth
- Dental or Gum abscess, a sack of infection that could cause pain, a swollen face or gum, and loose teeth
- Oral cancer. This is a very serious condition and early detection is paramount. Ulcers in the mouth that don’t heal after 2 weeks or other white or red lesions should always be investigated, and if you never go to the dentist, something nasty could be missed until it’s too late.
What can happen if these common issues progress without professional care?
As discussed above, pain is the main issue that can happen. So many patients say dental pain is one of the worst types of pain so preventing it is surely a good thing right?!
The next thing is losing teeth or having to have them removed. This can have a huge impact on many things, including reduced ability to eat properly and also losing the confidence to speak or smile, which can have a big impact on mental health. Lastly, when it comes to oral cancer, if left untreated, it can have dire consequences so early detection by a dental professional is key.