Dental phobia is a real thing and is one of the reasons many people avoid the dentist. They’d rather wait until things get bad. For some, their phobia can be so intense that they get panic attacks and severe dental anxiety from just thinking about going to the dentist.
A common one for phobia is the nerves in the head make it quite sensitive, therefore any pain in your mouth appears more sensitive to the treatment. When a patient is already in pain, they assume the pain will get worse if the dentist touches their mouth.
Another source may be the bad experiences from their childhood, adulthood or both. For example, a child may have been told that the needle wouldn’t hurt but then felt it, or an adult who consumes a lot of alcohol could feel the drill even after the area had been numbed.
Regardless of the source of their fears, whenever the patient returns to the chair, the same feelings resurface, and once again their anxiety level peaks. If this happens to you or someone you know, here are some of the ways you can overcome the anxiety.
How to minimize or get over dental anxiety:
1. Agree On A ‘Stop Signal’ With Your Dentist
A stop signal, such as you’d raise your hand or gently tap or squeeze the dentist’s hand, is an indicator that you’re either feeling some discomfort or have reached your anxiety threshold and now need some recovery time. Your stop signal gives you more control over your session because your dentist and their assistant will stop immediately, every time, giving you time to recover.
2. Go To The Dentist Even When You’re Not In Pain
If you go to the dentist at least every 6 months for a check-up and dental cleaning, you get used to the team, their procedures, and the environment. Your dentist can also detect and treat any issues early to prevent any complex treatments that could make you even more anxious.
3. Use Entertainment As A Distraction
Some dentists offer in-chair entertainment such as a video playing on the ceiling-mounted TV or some relaxation music playing on a stereo. This is so you don’t hear or pay attention to the dental equipment. If they don’t have entertainment facilities, ask if you can bring your own music or your mobile phone with some earphones.
4. Help Your Child Overcome Their Anxiety While Their Still Young
The bad experiences that a child has in the chair will carry on as bad memories into adulthood unless identified and addressed early. Many of our patients who used to be scared no longer have dental anxiety because we took a lot of care to get them through and overcome their fears. Others have not been so lucky because they came in too late, which often meant addressing their issues without giving them any time to overcome their fears. In the end, we’ve had to extract some or all of their teeth because, as you can guess, bacteria have no boundaries. The sooner you help your child overcome their fears, the better. Look for dental teams that are great with children and perhaps have a special room where children can feel safe and feel less anxious.
Sedation as a Last Resort for Dental Anxiety
If one of your patients has a dental phobia or dental anxiety and is not allergic to the anesthetic agent nor has had any previous allergic reactions to it, the best option might be for us to put them under general anesthesia. Any patients who are pregnant, obese, or have any underlying medical issues or head and neck irregularities are examined to confirm whether they can have any type of sedation.
From our experience putting 4,000 kids and adults under general anesthesia, sedation is safe, predictable, and doesn’t have any long-lasting side effects. But even when we have a good idea of what will happen, no two patients have reacted the same way nor had the same experiences.
Due to possible short-term side effects such as nausea and vomiting, we don’t recommend that anyone is put under too often. That’s why we suggest that you try to overcome your fears and anxiety. Sedation should be the last resort, especially with children who urgently need to take care of infections or have their teeth removed but just can’t or won’t sit still. Be aware that sedation might cost extra because you’re now adding another variable to the equation.
Do you suffer from dental anxiety?
At Prime Dental, we take the time to talk through your fears and explain any treatments and pain management requirements. Remember to tell us about your anxiety when you come in, so we can ensure you have a stress-free experience.
Our articles are not intended to be a substitute for professional dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment with your dentist, dental hygienist, or another medical professional. We recommend to always contact our professional team if you or the person you care for has any concerns about their oral health.