If the idea of visiting your dentist for a six-month check-up fills you with an intense sense of stress and worry, you may be among the 15% of people suffering from ongoing dental anxiety.
You know your regular dentist visits are important for your oral health, but the intense force of fear and anxiety override your logic. Don’t worry, fear of the dentist is common, but it’s also highly manageable. There are many strategies available to get the care you need without being held back by paralyzing pangs of anxiety.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety creates fear and uneasiness about upcoming dental appointments and procedures. Some people with moderate anxiety can push through their fears, but others find it too difficult to even walk in the door.
It’s dangerous to avoid the dentist due to anxiety. When you don’t receive proper oral care from a professional, you put yourself at a higher risk of tooth decay, infection, and gum disease.
There are a few main reasons that dental anxiety might cause you to dread or avoid your dentist’s office.
Fear of pain: The mouth is a highly sensitive area, so it’s extremely common for patients to feel terrified of the pain they might experience during a cavity filling or root canal. Even if the procedures themselves don’t hurt, the fear and anticipation of potential pain can be even worse.
Fear of side effects: Patients with dental anxiety also place excessive focus on the potential side effects of dental procedures.
Loss of control: Nobody likes to lose control, but those with dental anxiety feel especially helpless when laying in the dentist’s chair, mouth wide open. It’s difficult to observe surroundings or talk during dental procedures, leading to a sense of helplessness that quickly triggers anxiety.
Embarrassment: Other patients may fear the potential embarrassment of a dental appointment more than the work being done. This is especially true for people who don’t like other people entering their personal space. Dental work requires close contact that leads to self-conscious worries about the appearance and odor of the mouth or face.
The following strategies may help you minimize or eliminate your dental anxiety so that you can get the care and attention you need.
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a colorless and odorless gas used in the lightest form of sedation dentistry. Laughing gas is very popular because it’s safe and easy to control, even for children!
Unlike other forms of sedation that require IVs or injections, laughing gas is easily administered through a face mask. As you inhale nitrous oxide, it gradually slows your body’s reaction time. This eliminates your immediate responses to pain and fear. As a result, your anxiety decreases and you have the opportunity to coast through your dental appointment feeling calm and relaxed.
Laughing gas is also the first choice in dental sedation because it doesn’t knock you out or cause a long recovery period. You remain awake and alert while using laughing gas, but with the added benefit of feeling relaxed and unaware of pain. Nitrous oxide also wears off quickly, so you feel normal as you walk out of your procedure.
Oral Conscious Sedation
Oral conscious sedation is also a simple way to combat dental anxiety and bring more comfort to each dental appointment. It involves taking a small sedative pill at a predetermined time before your appointment, so a trusted family member or friend must drive you to and from your appointment to ensure safety.
You’ll take another sedative about an hour before your procedure to initiate the full conscious sedation process. The sedative allows you to remain conscious throughout your appointment, but you will feel entirely relaxed and at ease.
With the use of oral conscious sedation, you’ll know what’s happening without enduring any feelings of worry or anxiety. By the time your medication wears off, your appointment- and your reasons for anxiety- will be over!
Share Your Fears
Your dentist is talented in many areas, but he isn’t a mind reader. If you want your dentist to help you cope with your dental anxiety, you first need to be honest about your feelings.
You don’t have to feel embarrassed by or ashamed of your dental anxiety. Dentists are professionals who understand that every patient faces unique oral health challenges. You can trust that you are in a judgment-free zone where your feelings will be appreciated and validated.
Sharing your feelings and fears with your dentist will help to ensure that your treatments and procedures are completed in a way that calms, soothes, and reassures you every step of the way.
Listen to Music
Music may ease your fears as well by distracting you from the noises and activities occurring around you. Instead of focusing on the sounds of clinking tools, you can enjoy your favorite songs. This is also a mood booster, which may help you approach your appointment with more positivity.
Agree on Hand Signals
You might feel anxious because you assume you are helpless to take any control over your dental care. There is an easy solution to this problem! Just develop a signal with your hygienist and dentist so that they know when you need a break or are in pain. This puts you back in control of your dental experience and ensures that you won’t have to endure pain and discomfort.
Find the Right Dentist
More than anything else, the right dentist is your key to tackling dental anxiety. The team members at Arvada Dental Center pride themselves on offering world-class dental services to families living through the Denver Metro area. With specialties in family, cosmetic, implant, preventive, and restorative dental services, Dr. Bennett understands the serious implications of dental anxiety and strives to help all of his patients feel as comfortable as possible.
Call today to make an appointment for the type of compassionate, personalized care you deserve.