If you feel a bit nervous at the dentist’s office, you’re not the only one; that’s how many patients feel before a dental procedure. But what if your anxiety interferes with your ability to take care of your teeth?
Dental anxiety does more than cause mental distress—it also leads to poorer oral health. Many patients avoid dental treatment for fear of the dentist. But if you neglect regular check-ups, it leads to cavities, tooth infections, and gum disease. It’s a vicious cycle that worsens your general health.
This puts those with dental anxiety in a difficult position: they need treatment, but they’re extremely uncomfortable at the dental office. How do you manage dental anxiety when it threatens your oral health? Today, we’re going to explore how you can cope with dental anxiety:
What Is Dental Anxiety?
All of us have fears, anxieties, or concerns about certain things. For some, it’s a fear of heights, or discomfort in enclosed spaces. For others, it’s a dental phobia.
When someone deals with dental anxiety, going to the dentist can cause severe distress. It’s different than feeling a little uneasy before you sit in the dental chair. Dental anxiety makes an appointment difficult, uncomfortable, and a large source of stress.
What Causes It?
Like many health conditions, there is no single cause for dental anxiety; it depends on the person affected by it. But what causes this anxiety to manifest?
For many patients, fear of the dentist stems from an unpleasant or painful visit in the past. Maybe you had a traumatic dental visit when you were a child. Or, you heard about someone else’s experience that went poorly.
If you have a fear of needles, your anxiety may arise during a filling. You may have a fear of getting a needle, or that the needle won’t work and the procedure will be painful.
Are you concerned that you (or someone you know) could be dealing with dental anxiety? To help identify it, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- You spend a lot of time thinking about the dentist. On your calendar, you’ve marked the date of your next appointment. But it causes stress in the days, weeks, and months leading up to it.
- Oral health issues. Has your dental health declined over the years? It could be due to infrequent dental cleanings. Many patients with dental anxiety will put off their appointments.
- Physical symptoms. An anxiety disorder can cause physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, low blood pressure, sweating, dizziness, feeling faint, and an upset stomach.
Tips to Help Cope
Over the years, we’ve helped many patients cope with dental anxiety, and we’ve found a few particularly helpful methods. Here are our dental anxiety tips:
Take Excellent Care of Your Teeth
You can reduce your time spent in the dentist’s chair (without endangering your smile) by taking great care of your teeth. With a stringent oral health routine, you’ll have fewer cavities, and therefore, fewer dental appointments.
Dealing with Negative Experiences
It may help to speak with your dentist about the incident. By sharing your concerns with them, your dentist will be aware of what cues will trigger your anxiety. If certain phrases or movements make you anxious, your dentist will know to avoid them.
Remember that local anaesthesia will completely numb your mouth and prevent you from feeling pain.
Use a Stress Ball
Need something to fidget with? If you’re feeling tense, bring a stress ball with you to the dentist. This will help you release tension and provide a mental distraction from your anxiety.
Does the sound of a dental drill trigger your anxiety? Wearing headphones is a great way to block out other stimuli. Noise-canceling headphones will work best.
Deep Breathing Exercises
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness, a practice designed to promote relaxation and calmness. Being present and aware of your body is an effective way to manage dental fear. Combine deep breathing exercises with visualization, where you envision yourself somewhere other than the dental chair (like a beautiful park or a sandy beach).
Nitrous Oxide Sedation
Want to feel relaxed during dental visits? You might be interested in laughing gas. Nitrous oxide is administered by a dentist. Once you breathe it in, you feel calm, relaxed, and sometimes giggly. Laughing gas is:
- Safe for young children. Dental anxiety affects patients of all ages, including young ones. Laughing gas can be used safely even among children.
- Wears off quickly. With some anxiety-relieving medication, the effects last for many hours after your procedure. But nitrous oxide will wear off within the hour.
- Relieve anxiety. Your dental visits will be stress-free with laughing gas. Ask your dentist about nitrous oxide sedation at your next appointment.
Talk to Your Dentist
Open communication is so important when coping with dental anxiety. By talking to your dentist, they can adjust your appointment to make you feel at ease.
At Fresh Dental, many of our patients deal with dental anxiety. We can help by establishing a hand signal; even if you are unable to speak clearly during your dental procedure, you can raise your hand to signal that you need a break. We can explain exactly what we’re doing, so you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.
These adjustments put control back in the patient’s hands; it helps establish a trusting, caring relationship between our dentists and our patients. Do you deal with severe dental anxiety? Our experienced dentists at freshdental.ca can help. Before your dental appointment, let us know about your concerns. We will do our best to accommodate you and ensure your treatment is as comfortable as possible. To schedule your appointment, contact us today.