Chomp down on your dental phobia

Chomp down on your dental phobia

WellOne now offers program to alleviate dental anxiety

SCITUATE – Now there really is no excuse to put off that cavity filling. WellOne Primary Medical and Dental Care is offering a new program to treat dental phobia.

WellOne estimates that anywhere between 25 million and 40 million people are unable to have important dental problems treated because of anxiety or fear.

“Clearly there’s enough of a problem that this needs to be treated,” WellOne psychotherapist Barry Giordano said.

Giordano has been working with WellOne for the past five years and after receiving several patient referrals for dental phobia from WellOne’s own dental department, Giordano suggested the behavioral health department offer its own program.

The treatment is not new to him; Giordano has previously treated dental phobia while working at Arbour-Fuller Hospital in Massachusetts and in his own private practice.

While a trip to the dentist might seem trivial to some, Giordano says the fear is a valid one. Patients might fear a lack of control, a breach of personal space, a sense of vulnerability, claustrophobia, or specific concerns about pain. Not to mention, Giordano adds, “a lack of understanding of what goes on in dentistry.”

And when all of those concerns keep a patient away from the dentist too long, it can lead to a host of problems.

“A high percentage of people who are dentally anxious tend to delay, or avoid altogether, dental treatment,” Giordano said. “Problems evolve, they become serious, and it becomes so difficult that they frequently present at emergency rooms.”

This in turn overburdens the emergency room and likely induces greater fear into the patient.

“The costs, the pain ... all that goes up,” Giordano said. “I think if you have this problem, it’s a serious one.”

Patients interested in taking steps to address this fear can visit Giordano’s office in North Kingstown. The psychotherapist guides his patients through a psycho-social examination, a dental questionnaire, and an audio simulation of a dental visit. Patients will also learn how to target physical stress and manage negative thoughts.

“We look to involve dental stuff to explain and clarify any misconceptions,” Giordano said.

This all occurs over the course of approximately eight sessions and following completion, patients can conquer their fear through a simulation or guided visit to the dentist’s office.

“We’ve got to pull this group out of the shadows,” Giordano said.

Inquiries can be directed to all Giordano at 401-295-9706 ext. 204.