What lies beneath

15 November 2009 . Posted by Sarah in Smile Stories

To look at Peter you would never know he had a serious fear. He is a busy doctor, musician, father and husband, and a committed scuba diver and cyclist. But lurking beneath his confident exterior Peter was suffering from dental phobia.

By definition, dental phobia (also known as dentophobia or odontophobia) is an unexplained fear of dentistry and of seeking dental care. And while this is essentially a psychological and behavioral problem, it easily becomes a physical issue once dental problems arise and people are not able to seek proper treatment.

“I had let my teeth get to a stage where I had the molars of a hobo. I looked ok but there were lots of things I couldn‘t eat or which hurt to eat. I knew once we started we were going to have to do a fair bit of work,” Peter says. “I have logged nearly 200 Scuba hours including caves and wrecks, and all sorts of things for which confidence and training is needed, so I don’t think of myself as a fearful person. It struck me as a bit odd that I couldn’t sit in the dentists chair.”

Dr Cameron Arnold is no stranger to the effect of dental phobia on people’s mental and physical health. “You see this in people that they tend to neglect their mouth a bit because they are paranoid about going to the dentist. They just put having treatment off until it reaches a crisis point when it is too uncomfortable to bear,” Cameron says.

“For people like Peter, who are nervous to begin with, they only want to put their trust in one person. For that reason it was good that we were able to do everything from his root canal to his restorative and aesthetic work under the one roof.”

So how is Peter’s dental phobia now?

“I just recently had a five hour session in preparation for crowns and it was no drama at all. I think that means I am officially cured!” Peter laughs.