Dental Phobia & Anxiety
Dental care is an important aspect of enjoying an attractive, pain-free smile. For many people, these benefits aren’t enough to end the fear and anxiety they feel when they think about seeing the dentist. This fear and anxiety may stop a person from seeing the dentist until they absolutely must. This pattern often results in unnecessary pain and stress, not to mention more costly dental treatments. This pattern also perpetuates the fear that accompanies dental care.
We understand that many patients experience high levels of stress when they need to come see us. We are proud to provide several options to ease dental anxiety.
What Is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia is a term used to describe the fear that one may feel before seeing the dentist. Although most dental treatments are not painful, people with a dental phobia may feel overwhelming stress during the simplest dental exam and cleaning.
There is dental anxiety, and then there is dental phobia. The two terms are often used interchangeably but they are different levels of the same dental-related fear. A person who has dental anxiety may experience moderately high stress levels as their dental appointment approaches. They may even put off seeing the dentist as regularly as they should. A person with a dental phobia, on the other hand, may feel panic-stricken days before their dental visit. This person may also see the dentist only when a severe problem has developed.
People with either dental anxiety or a dental phobia are more susceptible to dental problems like cavities, infection, and gum disease because they often avoid routine visits. All of these conditions can be prevented by addressing dental anxiety with straightforward solutions like sedation.
How Can I Calm My Nerves before Going to the Dentist?
The ability to calm nerves before a dental visit may vary depending on the intensity of anxiety one feels. Some strategies that come highly recommended include:
- Choose a dentist who understands dental anxiety and is compassionate about fears. Ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations, if necessary, or do an online search for dentists in your area who offer sedation. Comfort with your dentist is one of the first steps toward feeling more confident about dental care.
- Talk to your dentist about your anxiety. There is no need to explain why you feel afraid, only the need to express that you do. This gives you a sense of empowerment and it gives your dentist a heads-up to be especially gentle-natured with the care they provide. Knowing your fears, your dentist can also offer strategies or treatment options like sedation to help you feel more comfortable during your visits.
- Avoid caffeine before seeing the dentist. Caffeine is stimulating and can exacerbate the sensations of stress and anxiety.
- Bring your earphones. Some patients do not like the sound of dental equipment. Most dentists do not mind if their patients wear headphones to listen to calming music during their exam, cleaning, or treatment.
- Communicate with your hands. Talk with your dentist before treatment to discuss how to use hand signals to express when you feel uncomfortable. Your signals can alert the dentist to stop momentarily or ease their motions.
What Is the Fear of the Dentist Called?
Dental anxiety and dental phobia are the two terms that are most commonly used to describe the intense fear of seeing the dentist. Dentophobia is the technical term used to describe this fear. Some people do not express that they have a fear of the dentist, but that they have a fear of needles, which causes them to feel anxious about dental appointments.
How Common Is Dental Phobia?
Dental anxiety and phobia are very common. Estimates state that nearly 15% of Americans experience levels of dental anxiety that keep them from seeing the dentist as often as they should. Because many people do not talk about their anxiety, we suspect this could be quite a low estimation. According to a survey conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of people who admitted they did not see the dentist regularly stated fear as their main reason.
Do Dentists Put You to Sleep to Pull Teeth?
It is possible to have dental sedation for tooth extraction, yes. Three different types of sedation are commonly used. Deep IV sedation is typically used when multiple teeth are being extracted, such as the removal of wisdom teeth. For a single extraction, patients may benefit nicely from a more conservative form of sedation.
How Long Does Dental Anesthesia Last?
Dental anesthesia, or deep IV sedation, is commonly used for lengthier procedures or when patients want to combine multiple procedures into a single visit. Anesthesia generally takes about half an hour to begin wearing off. The effects can linger for several hours, depending on the depth of sedation administered. Patients are advised not to drive or perform normal activities until all effects have lifted.
The sedative effects of oral sedation also take at least a few hours to wear off.
Nitrous oxide, inhalation sedation, begins to wear off immediately after administration stops. Patients can drive safely and resume normal activities right away.
Can the Dentist Give You Something for Anxiety?
We are proud to provide several options for dental sedation to help patients feel better about seeing the dentist. These include:
- Nitrous oxide. This gas sedative is inhaled through a small, comfortable mask that fits over the nose. Very quickly upon breathing in nitrous oxide, the nervous system slows and relaxes. Patients may feel a sense of calm coupled with light euphoria. This is why nitrous oxide was given the nickname “laughing gas.”
- Oral sedation. Dentists use a variety of different medications to address dental anxiety using a pill. When oral sedation is selected, the patient takes a pill about an hour before their appointment. They will need to be driving to the office. Oral sedation creates a state of moderate relaxation and sleepiness. However, patients can communicate with the dentist during their treatment. Normal activities may be resumed by the evening of the appointment or the morning after.
Both forms of dental sedation are combined with the usual dental anesthesia that is used to numb the mouth during procedures. The local anesthetic is administered to the gums and works quickly to remove sensation so treatment is not painful.
Should I Be Scared of the Dentist?
Dental anxiety and phobia are not uncommon. Our team at Dental365 understands that anxiety can be a very real issue when visiting the dentist but we also believe that patients can become more comfortable with the right care. This is why Dental365 provides dental care in the most understanding and compassionate way, and if necessary, our dentist will speak with patients about utilizing additional therapies like sedation dentistry.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
There are several reasons why dental anxieties may develop. Common reasons given by patients interviewed by researchers include:
- Pain. The fear of pain is one of the most common factors for dental anxiety in adults over the age of 23.
- Loss of control. Many anxieties relate to situations in which there is a sense of not being in control. In the dental chair, one has to remain still and may not know exactly what is going on or whether or not what their dentist is doing will hurt.
- Bad experiences. Interestingly, this is a less common reason for dental anxiety. Many patients who are uncomfortable seeing the dentist never experienced a traumatic event in the dental chair. For some, the sensation of having an anesthesia injection feels like a bad experience. Whether personal or through a story told by an acquaintance, the perception of dental treatment as unpleasant or painful is enough to create extreme stress.
- Embarrassment. This reason for dental anxiety may relate to how the teeth look or how the breath smells. During dental treatment, someone is very close to the face, which can understandably make a lot of people uncomfortable.
Schedule A Consultation
Let us help you attend to your smile and your dental anxiety. Call 844.365.DENTAL for more information on sedation dentistry, available in our offices in Connecticut and the New York Metropolitan area