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Straight Teeth Talk: Fear of dentists is real

Nov. 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Nov. 2, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.

Mac Lee

By Mac Lee

"Nothin' personal, Doc, but I hate dentists," is something every dentist hears almost every day of their professional career. I heard it again just the other day.

We had a new patient and that was the first thing out of his mouth.

Unfortunately, most of these folks have a very deep-seated fear and for good reasons. This particular patient told us, with fear in his eyes, that he had been traumatized in the past by not just one, but by several dentists. When he complained that he was being hurt, this doctor just ignored him and kept on working. This situation creates the fear of being out of control, fear of not knowing what is next, and that of claustrophobia.

Then a second patient who was not only physically hurt by his dentist, but was talked down to. He said he felt so humiliated that he never returned to his dentist or any other.

It is a sad fact that other caring dental professionals hear similar stories all too often. I have been specializing in high fear patients for a long time, and I can assure everyone that the fear is real. Obviously, patients who have had bad experiences, real or perceived, have one thing in common; they stay away from the dentist until they are forced to make an appointment due to pain.

The two patients I have referred to experienced two very different outcomes as a result of their fear of facing another dentist. One patient, who is my age, will unfortunately lose all of his teeth. This was no surprise to him; it is something that he knew he needed for a long time. It was a big relief for him just to know he was taking the first step in making himself healthier and happier.

I have seen it time and time again where people are just fed up with their teeth because of pain, the inability to eat right and the appearances of the broken down teeth.

The younger patient was a different story, and an interesting one at that. His father was the driving force to get his son on the right track. How he did this was truly amazing. He made an appointment for himself to check us out so he could report back to his son. Believe it or not, usually, it is the other way around. Parents will get an appointment for their children to check out a dentist before they make their own appointment. This may sound funny, but every dentist will tell you it is true.

Now, because of his father's help and encouragement, this young and intelligent man has a healthy mouth and beautiful teeth.

Modern technology allows dentists to sedate high fear patients and do most of their needed work in only one appointment. If you are a high fear patient, know there is help available.

If you have a loved one who has dental phobia, please know that it is real and it is extremely important that you understand this fear and do what you can to help them find the dentist who is right for them.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at www.drmaclee.com.

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