Dental phobias

If going to see a dentist is a major problem to you, you should know that you are not alone in this. Research shows that in most European and North American countries, 5-10 % of the population have these problems. In some countries, like Great Britain or Germany, the number may be even higher than that. When you are so afraid of dental treatments that you avoid them for years or decades and you may be bothered by seeing or hearing dental treatments on TV, we call that a dental phobia, which is a very strong fear. These fears are usually caused by dentists who fail to protect their patients adequately from sensations of pain during treatment. Often fears are caused because the patient feels helpless in the dental chair and has the impression that the dentist does not care about his or her wellbeing. This may be even worse than the experience of pain.

Dental phobias have been extensively researched and over the past 35 years there have been many scientific reports published in international journals on how these fears are caused and how they can be treated. Methods to help patients learn how to get rid of their fears are well known.

You are not born with dental fears. They are learned, when you are unlucky enough to encounter members of the dental profession who treat you in ways that cause fears. Usually this happens already in childhood, since many dentists are not adequately trained to treat child patients in a way that would avoid causing fears. Fear is a healthy defence mechanism that protects our life and our health. When something is painful or threatening, we learn to avoid it in the future. Fear is, however, a simple and primitive mechanism that cannot think like our intellect can. Telling your dental fear that it would be logical to seek dental help to get rid of that dental pain does not make much of an impression on the fear. In order to change the dental fear, you have to learn something new about dental treatments, and this has to take place in a carefully planned manner that may be different for different persons. Since dental fears are learned, you can also learn to get rid of them.

Treatment methods

The methods used at the Dental Fears Clinic in Hamburg to help our patients get rid of their phobias are Behavior therapy. Starting with an appointment without dental treatment and without having to enter the dental operatory, you will have the opportunity to discuss your problems with the dentist – if you wish also with the psychiatrist. The nature of the individual problems are assessed and you and the dentist and/or psychiatrist together work out a plan for the training that will best help you learn to cope with dental treatments. We then carefully plan appointments where you can learn to build self-confidence in the dental chair in a calm and controlled manner.

Sedation. For some treatments, especially if you need extractions before the dental phobia is quite under control, sedation may be an alternative. This may mean the oral intake of a tranquilizer or an appointment for intra-venous (IV) sedation, which means that the anesthesiologist administers the tranquilizer through a needle in your arm.
General anesthesia. If you have avoided dentistry for many years and have an extensive need for dental treatments, or if you have other psychological problems to deal with also, it may be most comfortable for you to have an appointment for general anesthesia, where all or most of the dental treatment will be taken care of in one appointment where you will sleep through it all and wake up to find that the dental treatment has already been taken care of. This does not, however, make your dental phobia go away. Therefore, we advice our GA patients to promise themselves to deal with their dental phobia after the general anesthesia, which may be easier then, when there is not so much dental work that has to be done.

The Dental Fears Clinic in Hamburg

Our team at the Dental Fears Clinic in Hamburg, Germany, has worked with dental phobics since 1979. Dr. Mats Mehrstedt, DMD, graduated from Dental School in Göteborg, Sweden, in 1977. He has published articles on behavioral therapy and hypnosis in connection with dental phobias in international journals and also lectured in this field for many years. Further information can be found under “literature” on this site.

Dr Michael Brune, MD, is a psychiatrist and neurologist, trained in Hamburg, Göteborg and Stockholm, Sweden. He is specialized in the treatment of traumatized refugees and has worked for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. In the line of this work he has visited Kosovo and Chechnya and also worked in South America. Dr Brune works part-time for the Dental Fears Clinic.

Dr Ingmar Werner, MD, is an anesthesiologist and he helps us regularly with patients who wish to be treated under general anesthesia or IV sedation.
We have five dental assistants working for us and one anesthesia assistant for the GA days. Since almost all our patients are dental phobics or former dental phobics, the entire staff is highly trained and they all understand what our patients have gone through.

The team is fluent in English and Dr Brune and Dr Werner are also fluent in Spanish.

We can give you further information over the phone:
The Dental Fears Clinic in Hamburg, Germany,
phone: +49-40-651 73 24

Mats Mehrstedt, DMD
Horner Landstraße 173
22111 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: + 49 40 651 73 24
Fax: +49 40 655 10 60
e-mail: Mehrstedt@gmx.de