If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9 and 20 Americans avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. For those suffering from dental anxiety, it typically manifests through higher stress levels and nervousness experienced at or around dental visits. This can be enough to dissuade dental anxiety from booking regular appointments. Dental phobia is a more serious condition than anxiety. It leaves people panic-stricken and terrified. People with dental phobia have an awareness that the fear is totally irrational, but are unable to do much about it. They exhibit classic avoidance behavior; that is, they will do everything possible to avoid going to the dentist. People with dental phobia usually go to the dentist only when forced to do so by extreme pain.
Overcoming Dental Anxiety
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies available for dental anxiety and dental phobic to help them combat their fears and get regular oral health maintenance they need. Here are just a few of them:
Be Open with Your Dentist
The number one key to coping with dental anxiety is to discuss your fears with your dentist. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable. Some of these could include signals such as raising your hand — when you want the dentist to immediately stop. Use this signal if lack of control is one of your main stressors, actively participating in a discussion with your dentist about your treatment can ease your tension. Ask your dentist to explain what’s happening at every stage of the procedure. This way you can mentally prepare for what’s to come. Be sure to establish a signal for whenever you are uncomfortable, need to rinse your mouth, or simply need to catch your breath.
Distraction is another key, in-office distraction amenities are available and are to be used during treatment. These amenities can vary from practice to practice but include things like headphones, virtual reality glasses, pillows, and blankets. Discuss these options with your dentist if you have anxiety before or during your visit.
When all else fails, you can take comfort in knowing that there are pharmacological methods for coping with dental anxiety and phobia during visits. Sedation dentistry may take the form of oral sedation, inhalation sedation, intravenous sedation or even general anesthesia. Frequently used in combination with local anesthetics, sedation dentistry offers mild-to-moderate relief for people suffering from fear or anxiousness. Oral sedation is used primarily for anxious patients and is as simple as taking a small pill before your appointment. Inhalation sedation (nitrous oxide) produces conscious relaxation during treatment. Intravenous sedation or “twilight sleep” offers a similar effect during treatment for people wishing to have unimpeded breathing. General anesthesia is more appropriate for complex treatments, during which the patient is not conscious.
Trusted Dentists in Los Gatos
We have a team of experienced dentists that have successfully used many strategies to make patients comfortable. If you’re not comfortable at your current dental office, call our practice to discuss how we can best meet your needs. You can also schedule an appointment online – we look forward to helping you overcome your dental anxiety!