Feeling a little anxious about an impending visit to the dentist? You are not alone. Feeling some anxiety preceding a dental appointment is extremely common, and having a mouthful of dental instruments and being unable to speak is enough to make most people feel a little stressed. Fortunately, there are some simple methods to reduce dental anxiety.
Feeling Out of Control
Most dental anxiety is triggered as a result of feeling a lack of control. After all, you can’t see what the dentist is doing inside your mouth or predict when it’s going to hurt. Many people will postpone a visit to the dentist out of fear, with fear of pain being the main reason. Negative past experiences with dental procedures can add to that anxiety.
A few simple tactics can be used to give the patient a sense of control. Ask your dentist to explain the sensations you’ll be feeling and how long they will last. Agree on a signal for the dentist to stop the procedure if you feel uncomfortable, for example, by raising one hand.
Support, Distraction and Relaxation
If you often feel anxious about going to the dentist, ask a close friend or relative to go with you. Practise some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and consciously relaxing your muscles. You can also try listening to your own music on headphones to distract you. For a completely immersive distraction technique, look for a practitioner that offers guided virtual reality.
What is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia is more serious than dental anxiety. A phobia is defined as an intense and unreasonable fear. Hence people with dental phobia will avoid going to the dentist at any cost. They’ll endure pain, infections and broken teeth for extended lengths of time. However this puts them at far greater risk of gum disease and untimely tooth loss.
Neglecting oral health can also affect a person’s health in general. Poor oral health has been related to lower life expectancy and life threatening conditions like heart disease and lung infections.
Signs of Dental Phobia
Having trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment, feeling physically ill while in the dentist’s chair or having a panic attack or trouble breathing when instruments are placed in your mouth are signs of dental phobia. People with anxiety disorders or PTSD are more likely to suffer from dental phobia, often have lower pain thresholds and may require extra anaesthetic or pain medication.
If you suffer from dental phobia, speak to your dentist about available sedatives. One of these is nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, which will not put you to sleep but will effectively reduce anxiety. Alternatively your dentist might give you an oral sedative, or administer an intravenous sedative which results in a deeper sedation, though you will still be awake.
In extreme cases your dentist might recommend general anaesthesia, so that you’ll be asleep for the duration of the procedure. As both IV and general anaesthesia require additional training and equipment, not all dentists are qualified to perform them.
Your dentist will review your physical and mental health before approving IV or general anaesthesia and may contract a physician to administer these. IV and general anaesthesia will also require additional recovery time after your procedure.
If you’re feeling anxious about your dental check-up or scheduled procedure, speak to your dentist about your concerns or anxiety, and they’ll be able to help you decide on a solution that’s right for you.