How to Overcome Your Dental Anxiety
The fear of going to the dentist affects more than 15 percent of Americans, and that can lead to serious dental problems. Some people will put off going to the dentist for years because they don’t know how to deal with the anxiety they experience in the dentist’s office.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of strategies that you can use to help you cope with dental anxiety in order to get the dental care you need and keep your smile looking great.
What is Dental Anxiety?
The actual experience of dental anxiety can differ from person to person. Someone with a mild form of dental anxiety might feel a sense of discomfort or uneasiness as the date of his or her dental appointment approaches.
While those with mild anxiety can usually find a way to struggle through their appointment, more severe anxiety can be overwhelming. Those suffering from acute dental anxiety might not even make it into the chair or to the door of the office—they might not even schedule an appointment!
Here are a few of the triggers that underlie cases of dental anxiety:
Fear of Pain
Because the mouth is so sensitive, some patients are afraid that their dental treatment will cause them unbearable pain. Whether it’s a root canal or a numbing injection, these patients fear the possibility of pain…even in procedures that are normally painless.
Fear of Embarrassment
For people with a strong sense of personal space, going to the dentist can feel like torture. Because of the nature of dental work, your dentist has to work in very close proximity to you. Others may be self-conscious about things like perceived bad breath, thinking that their dentist might judge them for the state of their mouth.
Loss of Control
Being in a dental chair means that you have to give up a certain amount of control. This can lead to a sense of panic for some people, resulting from a feeling of helplessness, as they lie on their back with their mouth open, unable to talk.
Some patients fear the potential side effects for procedures. Usually, these patients have heard some outlandish story from a friend or relative—and they’re afraid what they’ve heard about might happen to them, too.
If any of these things sound familiar to you, you may have some level of dental anxiety. But you don’t have to be a prisoner to your fears. Regular visits to the dentist are a vital part of your oral health, as well as to your health in general.
If you’re feeling anxious about going to the dentist, try these strategies. While they may not completely solve your dental anxiety all at once, they may help you to feel more comfortable.
Share Your Fears
The first thing you should do when you’re feeling anxious about your dental visit is to talk with your dentist about your fears. It seems simple, but making sure you and your dentist are on the same page is a big first step.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit your fears to your dentist. A good dentist understands that every patient is different and that not all of them are completely comfortable in a dentist’s office. In fact, it’s a good bet that you won’t be the first person who has shared your particular fears.
By sharing your fears with your dentist, you establish a judgment-free zone. Your dentist can help to create a calm, serene atmosphere to set you at ease.
Listen to Music
Listening to music is a great way to deal with anxiety. Not only does it help to mask the strange and frightening sounds of dental procedures, but it can also help you to focus on something else (ideally something that makes you feel relaxed). Just be sure to discuss it with your dentist, since they’ll need to be able to communicate with you during your appointment, as well.
If a feeling of helplessness is a trigger for your dental anxiety, agreeing on a hand signal with your dentist can help you to regain a sense of control. If you start to feel pain or discomfort or if something starts to be too intense, a simple hand signal to show you need a moment can help you to feel like you are in control.
If you’re especially anxious, you may want to ask your dentist about nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Colorless and odorless, nitrous oxide is safe (even for children) because it’s easy to control. Administered via a face mask, nitrous oxide decreases your natural response to pain and fear, allowing you to make it through your dental visit and procedures with a sense of utter calm.
Even better, unlike other sedatives, there’s no recovery time associated with the gas. You’ll be able to remain awake under nitrous oxide, but you won’t feel any pain. And because the effects wear off within minutes, you’ll walk out of your procedure with a clear head.
Oral Conscious Sedation
Like nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation techniques can create a sense of incredible calmness and relaxation during your dental appointment. In this treatment, you’ll take a small pill before your appointment, so you arrive for your procedure feeling calm and relaxed.
Although you’ll need someone you trust to drive you to and from the appointment, you’ll stay awake and alert during your procedure with oral conscious sedation. Throughout the appointment, you’ll feel no pain and be entirely at ease.
Find the Right Dentist
More than anything else, you need to find a dentist you can trust. Dr. Claudia and her team at Ablantis Dental are dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to be able to deal with your dental anxiety. Dr. Claudia’s experience and compassion help all of her patients in Encinitas to enjoy top-notch dental care. Contact Ablantis Dental today to schedule your next appointment.