Q & A Library
Fear of Dental Fillings?
I'm afraid of going to the dentist. I know it is irrational, but I can't bring myself to go. How can I deal with this fear so that my teeth don't suffer?
Answer (Published 5/26/2009)
You're not alone. Dental anxiety and dental phobia are very common. Some estimates suggest that almost half of the U.S. population has some degree of dental anxiety (defined as fears that lead to avoiding regular dental visits) while dental phobia (anxiety so severe that sufferers never go to the dentist) affects 9 to 15 percent of the population.
My first recommendation is to schedule a consultation with a hypnotherapist who specializes in phobias, so I discussed your question with Steven Gurgevich, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and an expert in clinical hypnosis. Dr. Gurgevich notes that all fears - including fear of the dentist - are learned behaviors, and that anything learned can be unlearned and replaced with something else. By learning to relax, you can desensitize yourself to your dental fears, Dr. Gurgevich said. He suggested trying these methods to get comfortable about going to the dentist:
Dr. Gurgevich said that he recommends medical or clinical hypnosis for dental phobia because it easy to learn, rapid, and once learned can be used in other stressful situations. To find a qualified practitioner in your area visit the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis at www.asch.net. You could also try Dr. Gurgevich's audio program "Relieve Anxiety with Medical Hypnosis."
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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