Overcoming dental anxiety

To Your Health

Does going to the dentist make you anxious or nervous? You are not alone. Dental fear or dental anxiety affects between 9 and 20 percent of Americans. Some of these fears stem from prior traumatic dental experiences while others fear pain, needles or suffering from claustrophobia. On many occasions, these individuals exhibit classic avoidance behavior and will do everything possible to evade the dentist. Avoidance of routine dental care, however, results in compromised oral health which can lead to dental emergencies such as toothaches or abscesses. Being more informed about dental fears and possible treatment options may be the first step in overcoming dental anxiety and improving oral health. 

The following are some common dental fears according to dentalfearcentral.org:

  • Fear of dental injections and/or needles
  • Noise of dental drill/instruments
  • Fear the treatment will be painful or patient will not get numb
  • Dentist not stopping when patient is distressed or in pain
  • Not being told what’s going on

Inform your dental team about your fears so they can partner with you by giving options to help make you as comfortable as possible and ease your tension. You can request that a numbing gel be placed in the area prior to the injection with “Novacaine” to make the procedure much more comfortable. Also consider using headphones with your favorite music to help you relax and block out the noise of the dental drill/instruments. 

Additionally, have a signal with your dentist to pause treatment if you begin to become uncomfortable, such as raising your hand. If you would like to know what is happening during each step of the procedure, let your dentist know. For some, knowing each step the dentist performs can help them mentally prepare for the procedure. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is another resource that can help relieve stress in the dental chair. Communication of your dental fears with your dentist is paramount and the first step in overcoming fears. 

For those who are not able to overcome their fears solely with communication strategies, there are specialized medications to help you relax. Using oral or intravenous medications may be an option to help conquer your fears. This is considered Conscious Sedation, and it enables treatment to be completed while the patient is relaxed and comfortable. Fears can be eliminated and overcome with this safe technique while providing maximum comfort for the patient. 

On many occasions, years of dental neglect can be corrected in a single relaxing visit and the patient will likely have no recollection of the treatment. Smiles can be beautifully restored and confidence renewed in a calm, tranquil environment. Dentists trained in Conscious Sedation and Advanced Cardiac Life Support will monitor you throughout the procedure to ensure comfort and safety. This option can be an excellent way to relax and have your dental needs accomplished in one or two visits while restoring your oral health and overcoming dental fears. 

Sources: www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears, www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-dental-fear-adults

About Aaron J. Hayes, DDS 3 Articles
Dr. Aaron Hayes has been practicing dentistry since 2008. He is co-owner of City Center Dental Care and can be reached at 757-873-3001 or on the practice's website at citycenterdentalcare.com.

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