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How to Avoid Dental Anxiety

Patient Nervous with anxiety at the dentist office

Are you late for your dental checkup or in need of emergency treatment but scared or nervous about going? If so, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 36% of the U.S. population suffer from dental fear, while an additional 12% suffer from extreme cases of dental anxiety.

Dental fear and anxiety can lead to a decrease in quality of life and poor oral health, so it is important to understand the reasons behind dental phobia and the best ways to cope with dental anxiety to make sure you receive proper oral care. Regular dental checkups, cleanings, and x-rays are an important part of preventing early signs of tooth decay to avoid more expensive and invasive treatments such as oral surgery.

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is defined as “an excessive dread of dental treatment or the dental care environment.” Dental anxiety can stem from both actual and anticipated events, but it is important to remember that the dental team at Dental365 always have patients’ best interest in mind. Triggers associated with dentists’ offices such as needles, drills, or general dentistry equipment all can contribute to the feeling of dental anxiety, making a simple teeth cleaning become something much more daunting. If this fear becomes overwhelming and results in the avoidance of dental treatment entirely, it is then classified as dental phobia.

What causes dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety and phobia of dentists can result from general underlying anxiety, depression, a lack of understanding, or a fear of pain. Past traumatic issues can also be a major cause of anxiety at the dentists. In an NIH study 61% of participants surveyed stated their anxiety developed as a direct result of past experiences.

How to manage dental anxiety

It is important to share your fears with your dentists before any oral procedures are performed. By openly discussing, your dentist can help to find strategies to make dental treatment tolerable, discuss if any form of sedation is needed, or can more thoroughly explain exactly what they are doing and the instruments they are using at any given time. You can also ask to create signals during procedures that can identify different conditions or feelings you might be undergoing. For example, raising several fingers if you are feeling uncomfortable, need a drink of water, or simply need some space. The biggest concern for our dentists is to provide the proper care you need and can only be performed by professional dental equipment. Taking extra time is worthwhile if it means that your teeth are properly treated, or you will be more comfortable during your next visit.

There are many practices that can be done both at home, before, and during your visit to the dentist’s office. Some coping mechanism that can help to relieve minor dental anxiety include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Music and other distractions
  • Hypnosis
  • Education about equipment or procedures

Nitrous Oxide

For some cases that involve a phobia of visiting the dentist, using in office treatments such as nitrous oxide (more commonly referred to as laughing gas) can be utilized to relax a patient while receiving dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is a great way to receive treatment for those who are afraid of the dentists because you will still be awake during treatment allowing you to respond to the dentist while they are performing any given procedure.

Conscious Sedation

Conscious sedation is another option, which is administered through an IV and may put patients into a light sleep. When undergoing conscious sedation patients are not allowed to drive themselves home following the appointment and some medical conditions may interfere with this form of treatment. Speak with your dentist ahead of your appointment to determine if conscious sedation is right for you.

General Anesthesia

Finally, general anesthesia can be used for intensive oral surgery procedures as well as those with severe dental phobias. Under general anesthesia, patients are rendered completely unconscious and put fully to sleep. This procedure is administered by an anesthesiologist and requires both pre- and post-operative visits. There is also a significantly longer recovery time than other forms of dental sedation.

Overcome your dental anxiety

At Dental365, we understand that many are affected by fears of the dentist. Our team is specially trained in managing dental anxiety in patients in order to make the experience as pleasant as possible while also educating patients to make sure that future visits are easier each time. We proudly serve patients in the New York Metropolitan area, NJ and Connecticut. To schedule a visit at a location near you, call 844.365.DENTAL.


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