Dental Anxiety: How to Overcome It

There are thousands, in fact millions of people of all ages who get anxious just thinking about going to the dentist. Perhaps you are scared that the visit to the dentist might involve painful procedures. Or perhaps, you have not been to the dentist in a while and feel anxious about what oral health problems the dentist will find.

Albeit, most dental procedures are largely pain-free. However, your dental anxiety may be to the extent that you feel anxious even at the thought of a simple oral hygiene appointment. Maybe you even have nightmares about needles and dental drills in the days leading up to your next dental session.

But the good news is, you can learn how to overcome these fears. Here are 4 practical tips to help you conquer your fear of the dentist:

#1 Get Those Concerns off Your Chest

The longer you avoid a visit to the dentist, the higher the risk of developing serious oral health issues. These issues would, in turn, make gearing up for future visits to the dentist even harder with time. In fact, visiting your dental professional on a regular basis can actually make the entire process quite easy in a number of ways. So, if you are anxious or overwrought, do yourself a favor and get your worries and qualms off your chest. The dental team will be able to treat you better if they know your needs and concerns.

So, the next time you book your appointment, make sure you tell the receptionist that you are feeling nervous about the visit. Also, inform the dental staff and the dentist about your anxiety when you arrive.

Sharing any bad experiences that you had in the past or asking for advice on how to cope with your anxiety may also help you alleviate your fears and stay calm during the procedure. Ask questions, as, at times, knowing what will happen eases any fear of the unknown.

Additionally, if you need a break during a dental procedure or dental examination, let your dentist know. Don’t feel embarrassed about your pain tolerance or interrupting the professional during a procedure. If you are feeling pain even with a local anesthetic, tell your dentist and he/she is sure to appease your discomfort and anxiety.

#2 Divert Your Mind

Distracting yourself during a procedure may seem impossible, but there are some helpful things that may help you divert your mind.

  • Listen to your favorite music: bring your headphones or earphones with you if the sound of the drill troubles you.
  • Use a stress ball or fidget spinner: get your hands busy by playing with a small object or fidget spinner or squeezing a stress ball.
  • Let your imagination flow: Envision yourself at a relaxing garden or beach or any peaceful and comforting location.

#3 Use mindfulness techniques

To help ease tension in your muscles, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale from the nose slowly and exhale from the mouth. Do this at least five times while you wait for your appointment or during the breaks of your procedure.

You may also focus on relaxing your muscles, part by part. Start from the top (head) then go down to your cheeks, then to your neck, your shoulder and all the way down to your toes.

#4 Ask for Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry provides a comforting, tranquilizing medication before your appointment, helping you to relax. Most of the techniques of sedation dentistry vary from anesthesia in which you probably will not sleep or get unconscious. This approach can be used for a complicated treatment or simple routine teeth cleaning procedure.

The fact that everyone has different levels of pain threshold and anxiety is understood by all dental professionals. Every patient’s needs may vary extensively, depending on various factors such as health, age, etc.

The field of sedative dentistry has developed several options to accommodate all kinds of patients. To ascertain the patient is experiencing the level of ease they require, a customized dose is given to them. The four sedative methods include:

  • Conscious sedation: In this method, a small amount of laughing gas or nitrous oxide is administered through an oxygen mask. As the name suggests, you will be responsive and wide awake during the procedure but the gas will make you a slight sedative. Many patients can even drive home after inhaling this gas as it is a mild sedative.
  • Oral sedation: Depending on the dosage, this method varies from light to moderate. It implicates you taking a tablet anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour prior to the procedure, depending on the extent of anxiety.
  • Intravenous (IV) sedation: Since this method implicates the sedative going straight into the veins, it works much more rapidly than the previous two methods, which can be an advantage for apprehensive patients with higher levels of anxiety.
  • Deep sedation and general anesthesia: Deep sedation and general anesthesia are for the more extreme cases, as both of them can leave you generally unconscious of your surroundings. Both implicate a heavy dose of sedatives. Deep sedation, however, leaves you nearly comatose while the latter will render you totally unconscious until the sedative wears off.

Some of you might now be wondering whether sedative dentistry is right for you or not. It is a very practical solution for both adult as well as children. Moreover, patients with low pain tolerance or teeth sensitivity who have a tough time sitting still at the dentist’s chair can benefit from sedative dentistry.

But is it safe?

Yes, it is safe for most people. Those who have some medical conditions such as obesity or obstructive sleep apnea should consult their health professional prior to receiving any method.

Final Thoughts

The above-mentioned tips are a sure-fire way to help you find the courage to take on your dental fears and anxiety as well as visit your dentist regularly. Doing so will not only enable you to overpower an emotional hurdle but will enormously improve your overall health. Your smile will thank you later!

Author Biography

Dr. Jennifer Silver is a respected Dentist at Southcentre Dental.