How to Ease the Fear of Dental Needles in Patients

Dealing with a patient with a fear of needles is a frequently encountered issue in dental offices. This very real fear often results in avoidance of dental care, which just makes problems worse. Identifying, understanding, and helping these patients is essential, otherwise, they can be a considerable source of stress for both dentists and staff. 

What is Trypanophobia?

By definition, Trypanophobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or needles. It’s often simply called needle phobia. But it’s much more than that.

Symptoms of Trypanophobia

Patients with this needle phobia are likely to experience high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate prior to their procedure. On the flip side, their blood pressure may rapidly drop during the needle puncture and cause them to faint.

Other physical symptoms these patients may experience are light-headedness, vertigo, diaphoresis, and nausea. Unfortunately, any of these symptoms can show up well before their appointment—several days even. 

What’s more, some patients with trypanophobia are hypersensitive to pain. So an injection barely felt by one person may cause severe pain to them.

Easing needle phobias

Before we get into techniques that you can implement, we must first start in a place of respect for the phobia and compassion for the patient. Understanding what the patient is going through and looking out for symptoms should be a part of every procedure.

One quick technique to ease patients is to have them lie as flat as possible in the chair. That way their legs are above their head when receiving an injection. This allows more blood to flow to the brain, which is helpful if the patient’s blood pressure begins to drop. If a patient says they often faint with needles, this approach could help.

A less quick but often successful technique is systematic desensitization. It’s a type of exposure therapy where a patient gradually learns to tolerate needles. In a calm, safe setting you expose the needle progressively, beginning with the patient seeing a syringe without a needle, then a syringe with a needle, and if they can, letting them hold the needle.

More innovative ideas

There are also devices that can help reduce fear in patients. The SimpleCAP needle has a patented sheath technology that shields the needle from the patient. That way, they won’t see it coming. There are also devices that use vibration technology to block pain sensation during injection. They can set a relaxing tone for a dental appointment. Be sure to advertise that your office uses pain-free technologies like these. It’s a great way to get patients who are avoiding treatment due to their anxiety into the office. 

All of these strategies require an open dialogue between you and the patient. The goal is to empower them to overcome their needle phobia and have the best possible therapeutic result.

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Verena Solutions