One of the most common obstacles people face prior to any dental work is anxiety. In fact, over 40% of the US population has reported at least moderate levels of dentistry-related fear or anxiety. There are many causes of dental fear — such as a negative dental experience, or a more associated fear, such as claustrophobia or a fear of needles. Popular media depictions of dentistry as painful or scary also certainly don’t help! All this is to say, the fear of a dental appointment is a popular one, and if you’re looking for dental anxiety management tips — you’re not alone. Read on to learn more about dental anxiety, and get tips on how to get over your fear of dentists.
Consequences of Insufficient Dental Anxiety Management
If you’re experiencing severe dental anxiety, it might just seem easier to avoid the dentist altogether. 5 - 10% of the US population avoids dental care entirely as a result of moderate to severe dental anxiety. However, avoidance of the problem isn’t solving anything — and can be dangerous to your health.
Avoiding regular dental care can cause a number of detrimental health effects, such as:
- Plaque and tartar buildup
- Bad breath
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
Conquering your dental anxiety is crucial for maintaining dental comfort, health, and wellness — but it can also benefit your mental wellbeing. Nobody likes to be stressed or fearful, certainly, but missing or decaying teeth have been linked to lower self-image and increased social anxiety.
Dental Anxiety Treatment Options
Just as there are many different reasons why someone might be feeling uneasy about their next dental appointment, there are also many different dental anxiety treatment options at your disposal to quell any fears. Always work with your physician and your dentist to determine the right dental care plan for you.
While your dentist can take precautions to ensure you’re comfortable — and many people find that scheduled procedures like root canals or wisdom teeth removals are not nearly as painful or scary as they’ve heard — if you’re looking to get over dental anxiety there are additional medical options available at many dental practices these days, such as:
- Topical anaesthetic. Also known as numbing gel, this is usually used on the skin or gums to numb the area before an injection.
- Injected anaesthetic. Traditionally delivered through a very small needle into deeper tissue, some dental practices may also use a special tool called “the wand”.
- Inhalation sedation. Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” may be used in conjunction with traditional anaesthetics to help relax a patient. It is administered with a nasal inhaler for a few minutes, and then traditional anaesthetic is given.
- Full sedation. The patient is rendered fully asleep or unconscious through IV-administered sedatives. Traditionally, this option was reserved for longer procedures. However, many modern practices are offering full sedation for patients with severe dental anxiety.
- And more! Click here to read more about the sedation services we offer at Affordable Dentures & Implants. Note: Availability of services may vary at each local practice.
Many dental teams are implementing physical, tangible objects, features, and improvements to their offices to help you feel more comfortable. Look for additions meant to distract or comfort, like TVs on the walls or ceilings, or if they encourage the use of headphones for you to wear during your procedures. Many offices now offer more inviting reception areas to create a relaxing environment from the moment you walk in the door. And, once you find a dentist and an office that you feel comfortable with, make sure you make a return appointment! Familiarity breeds comfort, after all.
Before even meeting with a dentist, you may find it helpful, particularly if your anxieties border on the phobic, to work with a licensed mental health care professional. A therapist or other mental health care professional can help you identify the root of your anxieties and give you more tools to manage them, such as prescribed medication or relaxation techniques like breathing exercises.
That said: one of the simplest ways to quell dental anxiety is to talk about it with your dental care provider! Your dentist and their team are there to help you, so don’t be scared to voice your concerns or ask questions. Your dental care team will work with you on a dental anxiety management plan that makes sense for your needs, whether that’s through coming up with a hand signal for breaks, or getting a thorough step-by-step breakdown of the procedure before it occurs.
Regular dental care is critical to your overall health and wellness, so if you experience dental anxiety, it’s doubly important that you find a dental anxiety management plan that works for you. The easiest place to start is by speaking up and asking questions. You might be surprised at how fast your fears are quelled when you simply ask your dentist how to get over dental anxiety.