Many patients experience some level of anxiety about visits to medical professionals, especially dentists. This may be tied to our perception of dentists that is fueled through movies and negative stigmas associated everywhere. While dentistry does not resemble anything from the Wild West, our fears can persist. Fortunately, there are several options that patients can utilize depending on their level of anxiety about an upcoming dental visit.
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Understanding the underlying cause of your ental anxiety can go a long way in allowing our dentist to resolve any issues. Patients have a variety of reasons that they may be experiencing some apprehension about an upcoming visit, but many of these are:
· A previous traumatic medical or dental experience
· Previous head or neck injury
· A traumatic event in a patient’s history, such as abuse
· Generalized anxiety or PTSD
· Fear of loss
· Issues with trusting others
· Agoraphobia (fear that you cannot escape)
· Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces)
· Compulsions about cleanliness and the fear of anything in your mouth
If you know that you have any of these issues, it is worth discussing with our dentist. Dentists have special training in helping to treat many of these issues. They can help design specific treatment options that are tailored to making you feel comfortable.
Effects of Dental Anxiety
The effects of dental anxiety can range from minor to severe. While some patients may only experience a passing thought or worry, other patients lose sleep, miss appointments, or have real effects on their eating habits. Patients with severe dental anxiety may never schedule a dental appointment. In these cases, they will only visit a dentist in the case of an emergency or severe oral pain. Other patients will miss appointments when they are scheduled. All these actions lead to missed dental care when problems may be caught when they are relatively minor. Fortunately, there are now several options available for patients who experience some level of dental anxiety.
Options for Dental Anxiety
Many patients may find that they can manage their unease on their own. These patients practice many different options including:
· Deep breathing
· Muscle relaxation techniques
· Guided imagery practices
· Distraction (using screens or visual aids)
These practices are sometimes used before or during your dental appointment. Many patients have also found that visiting with a psychologist can help treat the underlying causes of dental anxiety and create a better overall perception of their visits. If these treatment options don’t work, our dentist also has several other options that they can utilize to give you a positive dental experience.
Nitrous Oxide – This gas is also referred to as laughing gas. This treatment is a simple and low-level option to help reduce discomfort. The effects begin quickly and wear off almost immediately. The gas creates a relaxed feeling, but you are still conscious and can communicate with the dentist and others around you. There may be some inability to recall details of your appointment. People describe the sensation of nitrous oxide as very pleasant.
Oral Medications – There are medications on the market that are taken about one hour before your appointment. These medications are not safe to take and operate a vehicle, so you will need somebody to bring you to, and take you from, your appointment. These medications can help you feel relaxed throughout your appointment.
Conscious Sedation – Conscious sedation is a sedative that is delivered through an IV solution. Patients generally remain conscious but may drift into a light sleep. People can still respond to verbal prompts throughout this treatment. This treatment is not offered by every dentist and not every patient is a good candidate for sedation.
General Anesthesia – This option is a sedative delivered in a hospital setting and can either be intravenous or through a gas. Patients are completely unconscious during this method and will not recall anything about their appointment while they are unconscious. This treatment is used in extreme cases of dental anxiety or for certain dental procedures.
With all the treatment options for dental anxiety, our dentist can help find the best one for you. If you have dental anxiety, contact us and schedule an appointment with our dentist today and tell them about your concerns. They will work with you to make you feel comfortable and confident about your next appointment.