Ask the Dentist: Needle phobia can be overcome with help

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says fear of needles can be a serious mater but help is available

An estimated 10 per cent of people suffer from a fear of needles
Lucy Stock

DO YOU know what Trypanophobia is? Probably not; however, 10 per cent of people suffer from this. It’s needle phobia, and about 20 per cent of adult needle phobics are affected to such an extent that it causes them to avoid essential medical care.

A phobia is not something you can “just get over”. However, there are some simple steps that can help even the most deep-seated needle phobias.

The fear of needles can develop due to a variety of reasons. They aren't all to do with traumatic injection experiences in childhood; some children learn to fear needles from observing how adults act around them. While one per cent of the population have a hypersensitivity to pain, this means that they experience relatively low pains as super intensive.

So what can be done to ward off the feelings of doom or prevent a needle phobic from fainting?

Find a dentist that you feel you can build rapport with. Telling the dentist about your fear often releases some of the fear. The dentist can answer any specific questions you have, and tailor the treatment to your individual needs. If you feel that you cannot possibly say these things face-to-face, write down your fears beforehand to show the dentist.

Its helpful to put the patient back into the driving seat and hand back control. For example, your dentist can ask your permission before each new step. You may also want to agree on a stop signal – for example, putting up a hand. If you fear fainting, ask to lie back during treatment which reduces the chances of a faint.

Starting off with relatively easy steps can help build up confidence and trust. Simple breathing techniques that slow your breathing and heart rate are exceptionally beneficial to reduce anxiety. Additionally, music is one of the best distraction techniques, so plug in your phone or listen to specialist music, like wave music, to aid relaxation during stressful events.

The dentist has different techniques available, like topical anaesthetic gels that prevent the sensation of needle penetration. Recently a nasal anaesthetic spray has been brought on to the market that can numb the upper teeth sufficiently to enable fillings to be done without an injection.

Also needle phobics may like to try oral sedatives or gas and air to take their mind off things.

Remember, you are not alone having to deal with this type of issue – the dental team are there to support you.

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