Health Check: Dental Phobia

Health Check: Dental Phobia. (NBC10 Photo)

An estimated 25 to 50 million Americans do not or are hesitant to visit the dentist out of anxiety and fear.

"It may just be mere apprehension. It can be fear of a specific procedure,” said Barry Giordano, a behavioral health specialist at WellOne, a primary medical and dental care community center.

It may simply be the whir of the drill.

But, you should know avoiding regular dental visits can affect your overall health.

"It creates a vicious cycle where, because of their dental anxiety, their avoidance,” said Giordano. “They don't get routine or important care that then leads to, eventually, a serious situation which patients, they're presenting in an emergency room."

Bad oral hygiene can affect your heart health and make certain conditions worse, such as diabetes. At WellOne, Giordano is addressing dental phobia through a new program.

"We start with a comprehensive evaluation, a psycho social assessment,” said Giordano. “They also complete a dental fear questionnaire and then we do a simulation of an actual dental visit,” he said.

"Everybody could be triggered by very specific things. That's why the simulation is so important because you can find out what specific triggers each patients may have.”

And then he addresses those fears through education and simple exercises, breathing controls--muscle relaxation and thoughts control. Even simple, deliberate hand movements, he said can make a difference.

WellOne has four locations in Rhode Island: Pascoag, Foster, North Kingstown and Scituate.

For more on its’ dental phobia program click here.

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