Dental Anxiety: 9 Ways to Stop Your Fear of the Dentist

Do you fear to visit a dentist? Perhaps your kids are anxious too about dental checkups? You are not alone. Dental anxiety is extremely common. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of people in the US are afraid of a dentist. This prevents them from getting proper dental care and the consequences may go far beyond dental problems. Gum disease is a serious infection that can affect general health. In fact, evidence shows that it is associated with diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Luckily, many dentists are highly-trained in handling anxious patients. Also, you can do several things to help manage your anxiety.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Dental Anxiety?

There are several reasons why people have dental anxiety:

Pain

This is perhaps the most common reason patients avoid visiting a dentist. This normally stems from a previous unpleasant experience or negative stories.

Anesthetic Side Effects

Some people fear the potential side effects of anesthesia like nausea and dizziness. Others also do not like the numbness effect or “fat lip” associated with local anesthesia.

Feelings of Helplessness

It is understandable for people to feel this emotion considering the situation. During a dental procedure, you sit in a chair with your mouth wide open but unable to see what is going on.

Embarrassment and Loss of Personal Space

Not everyone is comfortable being physically close to a dentist. One may feel conscious about the appearance of his or her teeth or possible mouth odors.

Cost

Dental procedures can be expensive, especially if you do not have insurance to cover it. While regular dental visits may help reduce the need for more costly treatments, others still worry about the possible cost of a routine checkup.

Other Medical Conditions

Previous trauma to the head and neck, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can make dental checkups more difficult.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dental Anxiety?

Patients with dental anxiety often present with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty sleeping the night before a dental exam
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Syncope
  • Visible distress
  • Crying
  • Panic
  • Aggression to mask anxiety

How to Manage Dental Anxiety?

Here are some helpful tips that may help you overcome your fear of visiting a dentist.

Go with Someone You Trust and Who Does Not Fear Dental Visits

Ask someone you trust, a family member or a friend, to accompany you on your dental visit. If allowed, you can ask them to sit near you during the checkup or treatment.

Share Your Fears

If you are tense or anxious, tell your dentist. Expressing your concerns may help your dentist modify his or her approaches and the treatment to your needs.

Look for Distractions

Listen to your favorite music on headphones. Some dental clinics even have televisions or show DVDs.

You may also squeeze a stress ball or play with a small handheld object like a fidget spinner.

Imagination can work wonders too! Visualize yourself at the beach or a garden.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Controlled breathing can help slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles. Take a big breath, hold it for a few seconds, and let go very slowly. Another technique is muscle relaxation. You can tense and relax different muscle groups alternately.

Watch Your Foods and Drinks

Do not consume any caffeinated drinks before your appointment. Consume more protein-rich foods because they provide amino acids, which the body converts into mood-lifting and calming neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Use Hand Signals

Remove your worries by discussing hand signals with your dentist to ensure easy communication. If you feel uncomfortable with a procedure, signal the dentist to ease off or stop.

Check Reviews

If you are looking for a dentist, it is always better to ask people you trust for recommendations. You may also check reviews online. Positive reviews can help reduce your anxiety.

Ask for A Dental Anxiety Medication or Sedatives

A dental anxiety medication such as anxiolytics may be given to help patients relax. A single dose is often taken one hour before the appointment.

You may also ask your dentist if sedatives are part of your dental anxiety treatment options. Aside from local anesthetics, others use nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, and IV sedation. Be sure to have it administered by a qualified dentist because oversedation can be life-threatening.

See A Psychologist

If your fear is just too much, you might want to consider seeing a psychologist.

Discuss your dental anxiety concerns with us here at Sunrise Dentistry. Part of our holistic dentistry services is the development of a treatment plan to help put your fears to rest and allow you to receive the dental care and treatment you need and deserve. Schedule an appointment now by calling our office at (970) 247-3303.