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Dr Ilja Sapiro MSc

Dr Ilja Sapiro MSc is the dental surgeon at Wanstead Dental. More »


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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Wanstead Dental proudly offers some of the best cognitive and behavioural treatments – without the use of drugs to individuals who suffer from dental fear and anxiety. We are one of the select places in the UK, and the rest of Europe, to offer such treatments, allowing nervous patients to undergo dental treatments with ease and comfort.

Dental Phobia

If you are afraid of going to the dentist, or you are nervous about getting dental treatment, then you may have dental phobia. Studies show that one out of seven individuals suffers from dental anxiety, which is also called dentist fear, dentophobia, or odontophobia. In rare cases, traumatic events from previous dental experiences can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychological Treatment Tailor-Made for Your Needs

It is our goal to formulate a psychological treatment plan tailor-made to address your specific dental phobia concerns. We believe in the importance of identifying the dental fear and where it comes from, to stop a cycle of avoidance that prevents nervous patients from getting proper dental care. If you are suffering from dental fear and only go to the dentist when the problem has become complicated – with the presence of extreme pain – you will have an even more difficult time with the dental treatment.

Anxiety Management Methods

After a thorough assessment and establishing the presence of dental fear, we will offer a range of anxiety management methods that include: building good communication with your dentist, hypnosis, and the use of systematic desensitization. Specialists may be needed for methods like Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but all the other techniques can be offered to our patients to address their specific dental phobia concerns.

We believe that it is very important to establish a good relationship between the patient and the dentist, as well as offering a phased treatment approach that corresponds to the patient’s comfort level. In our clinic, we provide a tailor-made treatment for each patient, because we believe that what works for an individual may not necessarily work for the next person.

All of our fear and anxiety treatments are evidence-based, and are under continuous development and review from our visiting psychiatrist and consulting psychotherapist.

Anxiety and Fear Treatments

Good Communication Between Patient and Dentist – Good communication between the patient and the dentist can help relieve dental stress. An open line of communication encourages the discussion of fears and concerns, as well as all options available for treatment.

Relaxation Techniques – Relaxation techniques help control the pain and anxiety levels, and helps reduce the level of stress hormones released by the body. When you are under stress, your body releases stress chemicals that trigger physical reactions – making your dental phobia even more pronounced. The most effective relaxation techniques include the following:

  • Deep Breathing – Breathing deeply and slowly fills your body with oxygen, which helps reduce discomfort and relaxes the central nervous system.
  • Progressive Relaxation – Gradually relaxing all of the muscles in your body, from your head down to your toes (or from your toes going upward to your head), can reduce the tension that you feel in your muscles. This in turn can help in pain reduction.
  • Guided Imagery – Thinking about a relaxing place, or about a happy memory/image, can help you feel more relaxed. As you go about even more detail about these pleasant thoughts, your focus turns inward and you will not think too much of the procedure being undertaken by the dentist.

Distraction – Focusing on other things aside from the dental treatment being done can help relieve dental stress. Listening to music through headphones, or watching lifelike scenes via virtual reality goggles, will provide a welcome distraction so you will not think too much about what the dentist is doing.

Pain Control – Controlling pain is one of the best ways to manage dental phobia; this is because the fear of pain is a major reason why nervous patients avoid going to the dentist.

A wide range of pain control methods and techniques have been developed in recent years to eliminate or reduce the pain experienced during a dental procedure, including:

  • Topical Anesthetics – This is applied topically to the area that needs to be numbed, before a local anesthetic can be injected into the same location.
  • Nitrous Oxide – Also called laughing gas, this is one of the most common pain control methods used in-office. The gas works to bring you to a very relaxed and very happy state, with the effects wearing off quickly right after the gas is turned off. Laughing gas is generally used as a supplement, not as a replacement for other drugs.
  • Electronic Anesthesia – The dentist uses electronic anesthesia by placing electrodes on the patient’s cheeks to transmit electrical current, which works on numbing the area. Some patients consider this to be more effective than the use of drugs in pain control. Electronic anesthesia can be used as an alternative to a local anesthesia injection, which can cause more pain as the pressure from the fluid enters the body.
  • Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation – In this type of electronic anesthesia, electrical current is allowed to flow into the brain to stimulate a relaxed feeling. The intensity of the current can be adjusted accordingly to control pain.
  • Laser Drill – The use of a laser drill causes a lot less discomfort compared to using traditional mechanical drills, especially to prepare cavities for fillings.
  • IV Sedation – In intravenous sedation, the sedative is administered through an IV line on the arm or hand. You will be deeply relaxed but fully awake during the procedure. IV sedation is usually done for patients who will undergo complicated dental treatments, or for those who have a high anxiety level about the upcoming dental procedure.
  • General Anesthesia – Under general anesthesia, you will be unconscious during the procedure. It is important for a dental clinic to have the experienced staff and proper equipment for this particular pain control method, which can also be done in a hospital. General anesthesia is usually done only if other pain control or sedation techniques are not enough to address the dental phobia concerns of a patient.

Taking Control – Feeling in control can help ease your dental fear. The idea of losing control during a dental procedure can cause a person to feel anxious and deeply stressed. Discussing the treatment steps can help you feel in control, as the information can help you manage your expectations. Choosing the type of pain management method that will be used, as well as deciding on the length of time each treatment period will take, can help you regain the feeling of being in control.

You will also feel more in control if you know what to expect in every step of the treatment. However, if you feel that knowing what treatment step will involve will only make you feel more anxious, we encourage you to explain this to your dentist so that the proper adjustments can be made.

Hand Signals – A hand signal can be used to take control of the moment while undergoing a dental treatment. You can use hand signals if you want to just take a breather from the procedure, if you want to rinse your mouth, or if you want to take a breath for a few moments to calm yourself.

Sedatives – Sedatives such as diazepam (Valium) can make you feel calmer by relaxing the central nervous system. However, oral sedatives are not commonly used in dentistry because they take too long – around 30 minutes – to take effect, and their side effects last for hours after the procedure. The dentist or physician may however, still incorporate sedatives as part of an overall treatment plan.

Acupuncture and Acupressure – Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine which originated about 4,000 years ago. Needles are inserted into specific points in the body (called acupoints) to stimulate pain relief. Acupressure has a similar methodology – but uses pressure points instead of needles to trigger the relief of pain.

Hypnosis – Hypnosis has similar effects to meditation, and can be practiced on your own. Self hypnosis may however be even more effective if you have the help of a skilled practitioner at first, so you can gradually master the techniques with the proper guidance.

Therapy – Seeing a mental health professional is recommended if you are neglecting your dental health because of dental phobia. Overcoming a phobia can be done by using a method called systematic desensitization, which slowly exposes you to the things that you fear in a carefully controlled manner. Psychiatrists and psychologists can also use the following to address dental phobia:

  • Cognitive therapy – Helping you create practical strategies to combat your fears, or
  • Psychotherapy – You will be encouraged to identify where your fears are coming from, and fully accepting difficult past experiences.

Support Groups – Communicating and spending time with other individuals with the same fears can give you valuable emotional support. You will also learn a lot of practical tips from actual experiences of those who have the same dental phobia issues. Search for support groups in your local area by going online, or by calling mental health professionals for more information.





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