COLTENE’s Mark Allen discusses root canal treatments and overcoming dental phobia
Dental phobia is one of the most prevalent phobias in the world. Categorised as a type of specific phobia by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it ranks as the most common among 11 specific phobias, Dutch researchers found.
But while we can stay clear of visiting skyscrapers or liberally spray our homes with insecticide – heights and spiders were the second and third biggest fears – it’s not as easy to avoid the need to go to the dentists, right?
For many dental phobics, however, it is.
Almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist, and 12% of these suffer from extreme dental anxiety, the National Smile Month organisation reported. Among common fears, visiting the dentist ranked first at 22% for making people nervous, compared to 19% for those who were afraid of heights.
There is one dental procedure that stands out from the rest for the fear factor. Along with blood, snakes and clowns, the mere mention of root canals strikes terror in many individuals. An American Association of Endodontists (AAE) survey found that root canals were by far the most feared dental procedure, but much of the apprehension about dentists was based on hearsay: almost one third of those surveyed admitted it was derived from what others’ said, not personal experience.
Most people who have undergone root canals do not report the debilitating, bone-breaking pain of urban legend. Dutch research on anxiety and pain cited a 1998 survey that found approximately 96% of people who had undergone root canal treatment would be willing to have another if necessary. The AAE survey also showed that most people who had had a root canal procedure described it as a positive experience.
How can we, as members of our professional associations and in our individual practices, change the bias of the public? Dental associations can play their part in educating the public about effective ways to overcome their phobia of the dentist, from calming strategies to sedation , and the aversion to particular procedures. In the United States, the AAE has held Root Canal Awareness Week over the past 11 years that sets out to dispel the misconceptions and misinformation.
In our individual capacity as dental professionals, we must help our patients understand the procedure, address their concerns and assure them that we are competent to perform the surgery. We must be knowledgeable about the latest developments in the field, and use technology and equipment specially designed to help dentists undertake endodontic treatments more effectively; among the best known are the high-quality endodontic products from COLTENE.
It’s high time to work together to change the misperceptions about root canals – and help patients understand they do them good, not harm.
Mark Allen is General Manager at COLTENE