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This week our "Ask a Dentist" question comes from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, however it is a topic that many will find relevant: “I have a terrible fear of the dentist but my tooth pain is unbearable. What can I do?"

Here is what our featured dentist wrote in reply:

"Hi, my name is Dr Matthew Darbro, and I am here to help. As I understand it, you are terribly afraid of the dentist, but now you have a toothache that is actually really hurting. As I see it, there are two problems here, your need for tooth pain relief and your fear of the dentist.

Let’s talk about fear this fear of the dentist first. The fear of the dentist can take many forms and can be caused by many things. My recommendation is to consider what precisely triggers your fears and find methods to overcome that fear.

Many people who suffer from dental related fears are actually suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder because they had a traumatic experience in their past. I have found that their fear usually manifests during one part of the dental appointment. I have treated patients who were not afraid of the drill but completely afraid to have their teeth polished. I have treated patients who have been afraid of getting numb but were not at all afraid of the drill. Take a minute, and think of what it is that causes that fear. When you do go in to meet a dentist, let the team know what fears you have. Most teams are very sensitive to these fears.

Dental fear has also centered around lack of understanding of dental procedures and lack of trust. I would recommend that you meet dentists and dental professionals and find a team you feel comfortable with, someone you trust, and talk about your specific fears. There are all kinds of little tricks to make the anxious dental patient have a great appointment. The key is to talk to the dental team that is serving you and let them know, so they can be sensitive to your needs.

There are a number of pharmacological routes to take away the fears of dental work, but there are some less invasive methods as well. Headphones, for example, help some people to get their mind off the procedure. The best solution, in my opinion, is to overcome your fears and find a dentist you can return to regularly with little emotional stress. In the end, overcoming your fears and having regular dental appointments will mean a healthier you.

The second issue is your tooth. Your tooth is hurting and it is telling you that something has happened that is dreadfully wrong and it needs to be fixed. Bad things happen in the mouth and many times patients don’t feel any pain, but when extreme dental pain arises, this is an emergency. Please take the time for yourself, find a dentist you can trust, walk through your anxieties with this dentist and let him or her help you.

In the end, a dentist does what people cannot do for themselves. They serve their patient base keeping them healthy and happy and pain free. Find a dental team that you trust and care for all your dental needs."

*Dr. Matthew Darbro practices at Glendora Smiles Dentistry and Orthodontics, a Smile Generation-approved office, in Glendora, CA.