Regular dental care is an important aspect of maintaining a healthy, attractive smile. Yet, because of dental fear, many people don’t go to the dentist – unless they’re in pain and really have no other choice.
This fear and anxiety may stop a person from seeing the dentist altogether until they absolutely must.
This pattern often results in two big negatives:
- Unnecessary pain and stress, and
- More costly dental treatments
This pattern only perpetuates the fear and other negative feelings that go along with dental care for them.
We understand that a percentage of patients experience high levels of stress when they need to come see us. If this sounds like you, it’s okay. We are proud to provide several options to ease your dental anxiety.
WHAT IS DENTAL PHOBIA?
Dental phobia is a term used to describe the fear that one may feel before seeing the dentist.
Now, there is dental anxiety, and then there is dental phobia. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different levels of the same dental-related fear.
Someone who has dental anxiety may experience a moderate level of stress as their dental appointment approaches. As a result, they might even put off seeing the dentist as regularly as they should.
Someone with a dental phobia, on the other hand, may feel panic-stricken for days before their dental visit, unable to sleep the night before. This person may also go to the dentist only after a severe problem has developed.
Then we have the group of people who don’t necessarily have a fear of dentists, but that, in general, have a fear of needles, which causes them to feel anxious about dental appointments. This is more common that you might think.
WHAT DENTAL PROBLEMS CAN DENTAL PHOBIA CAUSE?
People with either dental anxiety or a dental phobia are more susceptible to dental problems like cavities, infection, and gum disease simply because they often avoid routine visits. All of these conditions can be prevented by addressing dental anxiety with straightforward solutions like sedation, and we offer a variety of options. If you suffer from this condition, one of these options will fit your needs and keep you comfortable, so you can receive the care you need without suffering emotional trauma from the stress.
SOME PEOPLE SIMPLY NEED TO JUST CALM THEIR NERVES BEFORE GOING TO THE DENTIST
The ability to calm your nerves before a dental visit may vary, depending on the intensity of anxiety you feel.
SOME STRATEGIES TO TRY:
• Choose a dentist who understands dental anxiety and is compassionate about fears. Ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations, if necessary, or do an online search for dentists in your area who offer sedation. Comfort with your dentist is one of the first steps toward feeling more confident about dental care. Here in our office, as you can imagine, we have had many patients over the years who suffer with this. We are proud to say that many of them have converted from full on dental-phobes, with intense, extreme fear levels, to mere mild anxiety, where they perhaps now just need to listen to soft music, or concentrate on their breathing to keep their minds busy while we’re working on their teeth. And for others, we have a varying level of sedation options.
• Talk to your dentist about your anxiety. This gives us a heads-up to understand what you’re experiencing while you’re sitting in the dental chair. Knowing of your fears, we can offer strategies or options like sedation to help you feel more comfortable during your visits.
• Avoid caffeine before dental visits. Caffeine is stimulating and can exacerbate the sensations of stress and anxiety.
• Bring your earphones. Some patients simply don’t like the sound of dental equipment. We don’t mind if you prefer to wear headphones to listen to calming music during their exam, cleaning, or treatment.
• Communicate with your hands. Talk with us before treatment so we can discuss how to use hand signals to express when you feel uncomfortable. Your signals can alert us when you need us to stop momentarily or adjust something.
HOW COMMON IS DENTAL PHOBIA?
Dental anxiety and phobia are very common. It is estimated state that about 15% of Americans experience levels of dental anxiety that keep them from seeing the dentist as often as they should. Because many people don’t like to talk about their anxiety, we suspect this could be a low estimation. According to a recent survey, 36% of people who admitted not seeing the dentist regularly stated fear as their #1 reason for not going.
WHAT SEDATION OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas): This gas is inhaled through a small, comfortable mask that fits over your nose. Very quickly upon breathing in nitrous oxide, your nervous system slows down and relaxes. You may feel a sense of calm coupled with light euphoria. This is why nitrous oxide was given the nickname “laughing gas.” One benefit of this type of sedation is that the Nitrous oxide begins to wear off immediately after administration stops, so you can drive safely and resume normal activities right away.
Oral sedation: When you opt for oral sedation, you’ll need someone to drive you to your appointment. You take a pill the evening before, at bedtime, and then another one an hour before your appointment. Oral sedation creates a state of moderate relaxation and sleepiness. However, are coherent enough to communicate with the dentist during their treatment. The full sedative effects of oral sedation also take at least a few hours to wear off. Normal activities may be resumed by the evening of the appointment or the morning after.
IV sedation: Although this is most commonly for lengthier procedures or when patients want to combine multiple procedures into a single visit, this form of sedation can be used for patients with extreme dental phobia. You basically sleep through the procedure, but are just conscious enough that if we need to wake you and ask for cooperation, like, say, to open your mouth or to scoot up higher in the chair, you can cooperate, and then fall right back asleep. There typically is little to no memory of the procedure once you’ve woken up and regained consciousness. IV sedation generally takes about half an hour to begin wearing off, although the effects can linger for several hours, depending on the depth of sedation administered. If you opt for this form of sedation, you will need a driver, and you will not be able to drive for 24 hours after the procedure when all the effects have lifted.