One of the consequences of dental phobia is that many people attempt what is becoming known as DIY Dentistry. Because phobics cannot face visiting their dentist, they try to solve their dental problems themselves. Clearly, attempting dental work on yourself can have dire results and will usually result in you requiring a visit to your dentist even more urgently. But this growing trend shows just how difficult it can be for some people to copy with dentophobia.
For the majority of us, DIY Dentistry is unthinkable as an alternative to visiting a professional dentist. For people who suffer from dentophobia, however, the thought process is exactly the opposite. Their dental fear is so irrational that they do not realise how avoiding the dentist will only make things worse.
Research recently produced by Which? magazine found that about three million people have attempted DIY dentistry, while three million more knowing someone else that has.
The Which? research revealed that, from the people who admitted to attempting DIY dentistry, 26 per cent extracted one of their own teeth with pliers, while another 12 per cent tried the same thing using a piece of string tied to a door handle. 30 per cent had tried to whiten their teeth with household cleaning products.
Some of the other DIY dental treatments were innovative to say the least. People told of bursting ulcers with pins, of holding a loose filling in place with chewing gum and of repairing a filling or crown with household glue.
Of course, one of the main reasons why people attempt DIY dentistry is because of the cost of dentistry and the lack of available NHS care. However, many people are simply afraid of visiting the dentist – and will try anything to avoid ending up in the dentist chair. In fact, while many people use cost or time as a reason for not visiting the dentist, it is often only because they are too embarrassed to admit to being dentophobic.
Not all DIY dentistry is quite so toe-curlingly scary. The majority of dentists agree that Dental First Aid Kits can be useful. Nowadays, these kinds of kits can be found in most pharmacies.
Dental First Aid Kits usually contain a safe glue mixture that people can use to hold a crown or filling in place. They are really designed for emergencies. For example, imagine you are trekking in the Amazon basin and as you snack on your last vital chocolate energy bar, you feel your crown come loose. The glue in your dental kit will provide a temporary repair until your reach civilisation again.
For many dentists, the real issue with Dental First Aid Kits is that they encourage people to avoid getting the level of treatment they need. Used in the right way, a Dental First Aid Kit is a useful tool for looking after your teeth. But it is important to remember that it is only a temporary measure. If you want to look after your teeth properly, you need to get to a dentist as soon as you can, so that they can provide the treatment you need.
Clearly, the issue for many people who suffer from dental phobias is getting that follow-up treatment. For them, the Dental First Aid Kit is a way to treat themselves – and that is not what the kit is designed for.
One of the main reasons why DIY dentistry should not be attempted is because you do not necessarily know what level of treatment you need. Let’s ignore the more extreme cases for the moment and concentrate simply on the type of person who has lost a crown and cannot face going back to the dentist to get it replaced. Maybe their initial experience of having the crown fitted was traumatic, so they will do anything that can to avoid a repeat experience.
Having a filling replaced or a crown fixed is not classed as an emergency procedure by dentists. It can be painful and, as we mentioned, many dentists recommend using a Repair Kit. You can even use clove oil from the supermarket to hold a crown in place as a temporary measure.
However, one of the reasons why a filling or crown can become loose is because there is some decay in the tooth beneath it. Once again, this can be painful, but it should not be a problem if it is treated early. The problems only really begin when a patient thinks that simply replacing the crown solves the problem. It doesn’t. It simply makes the problem worse.
A vicious circle
For patient’s who suffer from dental phobia, therefore, DIY dentistry may seem like a good option. But that is a myth. Treating yourself can help as a temporary measure for some problems. If it becomes anything more than a temporary measure, however, it usually results in a vicious circle through which oral health can deteriorate badly.
This is at the heart of the problem that dentophobic patients face. As much as they try, they cannot really avoid going to the dentist. The longer they avoid getting the treatment they need, the more urgent it becomes. The more they try to treat themselves, the more they need professional treatment from their dentist.
So what is the solution? The growing trend for DIY dentistry suggests that more and more people are attempting to evade proper dental treatment for a variety of reasons. If you are dental phobic and you need treatment, it is vitally important that you speak to your dentist. You may be surprised at how helpful and understanding your dentist is.
The majority of dentists are now specially trained on how to deal with nervous or phobic patients. If you explain how you feel, your dentist will probably arrange an initial appointment to talk about your condition. They won’t offer to treat you. In fact, you probably won’t even end up anywhere near the dentist chair. But you will be able to explain your requirements as a patient and find out whether your dentist has relevant experience of treating similar patients. At the very least, it will be a first step in the right direction – and a far better solution that trying to treat yourself!