Although the exact number of people who suffer from dental anxiety is not known, dental anxiety is actually quite common. It is estimated that 75% of people experience some form of dental anxiety, and that about 20% of people with dental anxiety avoid visiting the dentist as a result of the stress and fear it causes them.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is characterized by fear, stress, nervousness, and anxiety that is caused by visiting the dentist. Dental anxiety is less severe than dental phobia (dentophobia) which elicits a strong panic and terror response. However, dental anxiety is a serious concern that prevents many people from getting the dental care they need to safeguard their oral and general health.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety can be the result of one or more underlying causes. Some common causes of dental anxiety include:
- Having had a past traumatic experience with dental care or healthcare
- General anxiety, panic disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or past abuse
- Having suffered a previous trauma to the head or neck area
- Fearing the loss of control in the dental chair
- Issues with trust
- Anxiety that is caused by other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or developmental disorders
- Self-conscious feelings about teeth that have not been professionally cared for in a long time
No matter why you suffer from dental anxiety, it is still important to find strategies that enable you to minimize your fears, anxiety, and stress so that you can visit the dentist regularly for routine preventive care.
Why It’s Important Not to Put Off Visiting the Dentist
Regularly visiting the dentist is essential for the health of your teeth and gums and the health of your body overall. During a routine dental appointment, you’ll receive a professional scaling and polishing of your teeth and preventive treatments such as fluoride and sealants that help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. Left unaddressed, periodontal disease not only harms your oral health but also your general health, as it has been linked to systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, reproductive health problems, and even some types of cancer.
Your teeth will also be examined by a dentist regularly which means any problems will be detected just as soon as they develop. As a result, they’ll be more likely to be resolved with simple treatments, rather than more complex treatments. By visiting the dentist regularly for an exam and professional cleaning, you can prevent the need for more invasive procedures by preventing serious oral health problems from occurring. As a result, visiting the dentist regularly for simple appointments helps you avoid the need for appointments that can be more anxiety-provoking.
7 Strategies to Calm Dental Anxiety
Clear communication is one of the best ways to calm your fears. This includes talking openly with the dentist about your anxiety, fears, and concerns about dental visits so that we can better accommodate you and help you relax.
Additionally, some patients find it helpful when they know exactly what is happening at all times during their dental visit. If you find that this helps ease your anxiety, we can communicate with you throughout, informing you about the tools we are using, how we use them, and why we use them.
Since it can be difficult for a patient to speak during a dental exam, we like to establish an alternative communication method, such as raising a hand, that you can use during your appointments to let the dentist or dental hygienist know if you need to take a break.
2. Taking Breaks
If you find that the duration of a dental cleaning and exam is too much for you to endure, we are happy to accommodate breaks during your cleaning, treatment, or examination. Having a few moments to relax your mouth, pause your dental care, catch your breath, chat with your hygienist, and calm yourself can do a lot to manage anxiety at the dentist.
Practicing meditation can be an incredibly useful strategy for managing dental anxiety and anxiety in general. There are several different types of meditation such as breathing exercises, counting exercises, and visualization exercises that you can do in order to relax in the dental chair.
We also welcome our patients to bring noise-canceling headphones or regular earbuds with them to their appointments. This will help drown out the sounds of the dental office while also providing a calming distraction from your dental care. You can listen to nature sounds, guided meditations, your favorite music, a podcast, or a book on tape – anything that you find transports you to a happy mental place and helps you relax.
5. Weighted Blank
Weighted blankets have been shown to be incredibly comforting and also effective at reducing stress in addition to lowering blood pressure and heart rate (physical stress responses in the body). You are more than welcome to bring a weighted blanket with you to your dental appointment if covering up in one during your treatment helps you to feel more safe and secure.
If your anxiety is preventing you from accessing dental care, then you might consider working with a professional therapist to overcome your fears in honor of your physical and mental health.
7. Stress-Free Scheduling
If you’re already nervous about visiting the dentist, be sure to schedule your appointment for a time when you won’t be dealing with additional stress for any other reason.
8. Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry uses a variety of pharmaceuticals to help patients relax before and during their dental care. There are several types of sedatives that can be used including nitrous oxide (laughing gas), prescription oral sedatives, and general anesthesia.
Sedation Dentistry in West Bend
If you struggle with dental anxiety and find that you often skip dental appointments as a result, we strongly encourage you to start taking steps to ensure you are able to receive the dental care you need to stay healthy. You can talk with your doctor, your therapist, or our dentist, Dr. Jared Harding about the strategies that would be best for you.
We are always happy to accommodate patients who experience dental anxiety – whether you find that taking breaks during treatment helps you, visiting the office before your appointment to get more comfortable with your surroundings, sedation dentistry, or another strategy works best for you. We are here to help you keep your teeth, gums, and body healthy, and we want to help you find a stress-free way to visit the dentist.
To learn more about sedation dentistry and accessing dental care with dental anxiety, we encourage you to contact Dentistry of West Bend today.