How to Deal with Dental Anxiety: Tips for Overcoming Fear

Dental Health / Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Dental anxiety is a real thing for many people. In fact, it’s one of the most common phobias in the world. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from dental anxiety, don’t worry – you’re not alone. How do you deal with dental anxiety? This blog post will discuss some tips for overcoming your fear and getting the dental care you need.

  • Dental Anxiety
  • Signs and symptoms of dental anxiety
  • How dental anxiety or phobia can affect your oral health
  • Causes of dental anxiety and phobia
  • How to manage dental anxiety or phobia

Dental Anxiety

Fear, worry, or tension connected with a dental environment is dental anxiety. Being afraid to go to the dentist might postpone or avoid dental treatment.

Dentist anxiety can be triggered by the dental chair, needles, drills, or the dental office in general.

Dental anxiety can be classed as a dental phobia when it is severe and creates irrational dread and avoidance of visiting the dentist.

Some mental health problems, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a history of head and neck trauma, might enhance a person’s chance of developing dental fear. Other medical illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, may raise the risk of anxiety disorder.

Signs and symptoms of dental anxiety

People who suffer from dental anxiety may encounter the following symptoms:fear of dentist

  • sweating
  • Palpitations or a speeding heart (tachycardia)
  • low blood pressure and the possibility of fainting (syncope)
  • evident anguish, weeping, or panic
  • Withdrawal and the use of humor or aggressiveness to cover tension.

Some nervous persons will habitually miss or avoid dental offices, and they may find it challenging to endure dental treatment, whether basic or sophisticated.

How dental anxiety or phobia can affect your oral health

If you have dental anxiety or phobia, it may be challenging to get the dental care you need. Dental anxiety can lead to avoidance of going to the dentist, which can cause oral health problems to worsen. Avoiding the dentist can worsen dental disease, a greater need for emergency care, or more complex treatment. It can also exacerbate the underlying issue of dental anxiety. This is referred to as the ‘vicious cycle of dental worry.’ Oral health problems that may be exacerbated by dental anxiety or phobia include:

– Gum disease

– Tooth decay

– Cavities

– Tooth loss

A regularized dental appointment for cleanings and routine X-rays of the teeth can help prevent dental disease and assist the dentist in detecting any issues early, allowing for more straightforward and less intrusive treatments.

For instance, dentists examine for symptoms of oral cancer during frequent check-ups, which is especially crucial for individuals who smoke or drink alcohol regularly, and much more so for those who do both. If you find a mouth ulcer that lasts more than two weeks, see a dentist as soon as possible.

The majority of dental illness is avoidable and is caused by poor lifestyle choices. By postponing visits to the dentist, you not only increase your chances of needing more sophisticated treatments when you eventually do go, but you also miss out on learning how to effectively care for your dental health.

The risk factors for dental illness are highly similar to those for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and several malignancies (regularly consuming sugary food and drinks, smoking, and drinking alcohol). Taking care of your dental and overall health, as well as remembering to wash your teeth twice a day and floss once a day, is critical.

Causes of dental anxiety and phobia

Dental anxiety can be brought on by:

  • a terrible dental experience or other types of healthcare encounter
  • prior head and neck trauma
  • other stressful events, such as abuse
  • symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders (sadness, agitation)
  • the belief that the mouth is a personal space and that entering it constitutes an invasion of personal space
  • fear of losing control
  • Trust issues

Anxiety can be related to other illnesses such as

  • agoraphobia (fear of being trapped in situations from which you believe you cannot escape),
  • claustrophobia (fear of enclosed places), or;
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (cleanliness preoccupation)

How to manage dental anxiety or phobia

There are several methods available to assist patients in dealing with dental anxiety or phobia. It is critical to inform the dentist if you have any amount of dental anxiety. An open talk about the particular triggers of anxiety might assist the dentist in tailoring a management strategy for you.

Among the psychological coping mechanisms are:

  • Deep breathing exercises. Take a big breath, hold it, and let it out very slowly, like you are a leaky anxiety meditation
  • Meditation. Close your eyes or fix your eyes on an object, and then allow your body to completely relax. Pay attention to different parts of your body and make a conscious effort to release tension, soothing your entire body, starting with your head down to your feet.
  • Distraction (such as listening to music or the use of devices)
  • Guided imagery during dental visits. As they say, go to your ‘happy place.’
  • Progressive muscle relaxation technique. This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.
  • Deciding with your dentist on a signal to halt the treatment to take a break (such as raising your left pointer finger or hand)
  • Making use of a weighted blanket while sitting on the dentist’s chair
  • Hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is a guided relaxation technique that helps achieve a trance state. A hypnotherapist uses the power of suggestion to curb your anxiety.

A referral to a psychologist might also be beneficial. Short, focused interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can be pretty effective.

Other Dental Anxiety Management

Severe dental anxiety or phobia may necessitate medical intervention such as relative analgesia (happy gas), anxiety medication, conscious sedation (twilight sedation), or general anesthetic.

Relative Analgesia (Happy Gas)

Nitrous oxide, sometimes known as happy gas or laughing gas, can help individuals relax during dental treatment. You wear a mask on your face and breathe a combination of oxygen and nitrous oxide. It has a short duration of action and rapidly wears off.

Happy gas will help you feel calm yet remain aware. You can converse with the dentist and hear everything they say to you, but you won’t recall anything when the visit is finished.

The calm sensation produced by nitrous oxide sedation is delightful for most people. Sometimes, though, people don’t enjoy the feeling it creates, in which case other solutions might be examined.

Anxiety medications

Dentists occasionally recommend anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs (such as temazepam) to relax nervous individuals. A single, tiny, short-acting dosage is typically given one hour before the dentist session.

Medication should be taken only after consulting with your dentist or doctor. You will need to be accompanied to and from the dentist’s appointment since you cannot drive safely while under the effect of sedative medicines.

Conscious sedation

dental anxiety relaxationThis kind of sedation includes administering drugs via a drip into a vein in the arm or hand. A dentist with extensive sedation training or an anesthesiologist administers intravenous (IV) sedation. It can be done in a hospital or dental practice with specialized equipment.

You are calm and may drift off into a light slumber when under IV sedation (also known as twilight sedation), but you can respond to verbal commands. After the surgery, sleepiness and nausea are possible side effects. After IV sedation, you should not drive yourself home.

Not all dentists provide sedation dentistry. Some pre-existing medical issues or drugs may limit or prohibit you from receiving sedation.

General anesthesia

The dentist and an anesthesiologist work together in a hospital environment to provide treatment under general anesthesia. Patients are ‘completely sleeping’ under general anesthesia. The downside is patients may experience feeling nauseous and have a longer recovery period if they have this procedure.

This major anesthesia may be a viable choice for some people, but keep in mind that it will not help you acquire coping skills for anxiety or become accustomed to seeing the dentist.

You will need to see the dentist for a pre-operative (before treatment) appointment, as well as a post-operative (after treatment) visit. Before the general anesthetic, the anesthetist will also need to evaluate you.

Please note that you cannot drive yourself home after a general anesthetic if you have dental procedures under general anesthesia.

Ultimately, managing your dental anxiety will involve a combination of the above options. Talk with your dentist and explain precisely what makes you nervous about the visit. Your dentist will carefully review your medical history to make safe recommendations while considering your overall health. And lastly, visit your dentist regularly, even if you are not in dental pain. This is the best way to prevent painful experiences and more complex and costly procedures.

You can contact Carindale Family Dentist’s near Mt. Gravatt if you’re looking for a trusted dentist in that area.


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