If you were to ask people about the things they dread doing or the things they avoid because of anxiety or fear, going to the dentist would be near the top of many people’s lists. Millions of people in the US have dental anxieties in some form or another. While a few grit their teeth and go to the dentist anyway, many decide to skip exams and cleanings because of their anxiety–which ultimately makes the problem worse.
Not seeing a dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups can do more harm than good in the long run, increasing the risk for serious gum disease or other dental problems. If your dental anxieties have kept you away from your dentist’s office, understanding where those fears are coming from and how to cope with them can be the first step you take toward improved oral care and health.
Why Do People Experience Dental Anxiety?
People feel nervous or anxious about the going to the dentist for several reasons. In some cases, the level of anxiety or fear a person feels is severe enough to classify as a phobia.
A previous unpleasant experience at a dentist’s office can trigger anxiety or fear in some patients. For example, a patient might have experienced pain during or after a treatment, been turned off by the sound of the tools the dentist used, or been bothered by the smells associated with the office. Sometimes, people feel anxious about going to the dentist because they are worried that the dentist won’t fully address their concerns or treat their problems. A concern about the cost of treatment can also make people anxious or fearful of the dentist’s office.
How people react to their dental anxiety depends on its severity. Occasionally, the anxiety is enough to cause someone to have a panic attack and to absolutely refuse to get within a certain distance of a dental practice. Others might have trouble sleeping the night before an appointment, might feel shaky or nervous as they travel to the office or wait in the waiting room, or might start crying before or during a visit.
How to Cope with Dental Anxieties
If you have any amount of anxiety about going to the dentist, there are multiple ways to cope. How you manage your anxiety depends in part on its severity and what triggers it. Sometimes, people who are nervous about the sounds of a dentist’s office or about the noise the tools make find that bringing along a set of headphones and something to listen to, such as music or an audiobook, helps them relax during their appointment.
If you are concerned about the quality of treatment you are going to receive, or about the cost of treatment, you can try discussing your fears and worries with your dentist before the procedure begins. In some cases, knowing exactly what a dentist is going to do and why can help to put your mind at ease. You can also discuss payment options with your dentist if the cost of a treatment is high or more than you can afford to pay all at once.
The timing of your dental appointment can also help you cope with your anxieties. If you are worried that you will become more and more nervous the longer you sit in the waiting room, ask to be the first patient seen during the day. That way, there’s little chance that the appointment before yours will run long, causing you to wait longer. It can also be a good idea to schedule your appointment for a time when you’ll be more relaxed. Instead of a busy, hectic weekday, try to schedule your appointment for a weekend morning.
Sedation Dentistry Can Help With Anxiety
Some patients find that sedation dentistry is the best solution for their dental anxiety and fears. Sedation dentistry options range from conscious sedation with nitrous oxide, which helps you relax during your appointment, to IV conscious sedation, which usually means that you are relaxed, but able to communicate. Patients who receive IV sedation typically don’t remember what happened during their dental visit, making it an ideal choice for those with severe anxiety.
Your dentist can be a great resource when it comes to managing and coping with dental anxiety. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who offers a variety of sedation options to patients. He can recommend options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.