Dealing With Dental Anxiety
Does the thought of visiting the dentist scare you? Well, you are not alone. Dental anxiety is very common, and studies show that around 24 percent of the world population experiences dental anxiety or fear related to going to the dentist. What goes through your mind when you see the dentist or the dental assistant preparing the tools for drilling your teeth?
For some people, the moment they get into the reception and the aseptic smell they become afraid. Then there is the sharp hook for scraping tartar from the patient's teeth and the chapped lips. Then, there are the uncomfortable moments when the dentist has to check whether your teeth need a root canal or removal.
There are various reasons why people fear the dentists or dental checkups. For some the sounds of the drilling machine scare them, and are often afraid that the procedure will be extremely painful given the uncomfortable sound that the drill makes.
Unfortunately, dental checkups or visits are necessary, and the longer you postpone the visit, the worse the dental problem will become thus more expensive. The good thing is that dental anxiety is common, and there are various ways of dealing with the issue of dental anxiety. Below are some signs and symptoms of dental anxiety as well as helpful suggestions. But keep in mind, the most effective way of dealing with this type of anxiety is to get help from a professional therapist.
Symptoms And Signs Associated With Dental Anxiety
If one is experiencing dental anxiety, then he or she is likely to show the following:
- They can only visit the dentist when in extreme pain
- They have avoidance behaviors
- Crying when the doctor starts to perform work
- Being nervous while at the dental office
- Racing heart
- Low blood pressure
Causes Of Dental Anxiety
Fear Of Injections
Just the mere sight of a syringe frightens some people. Others fear that the injections will not work as they are supposed to function. If one has had negative experiences with shots in the past, then during the subsequent visits the fear will remain.
Fear Of pain
Many people face dental anxiety because of the fear of pain. The horror stories from people who have experienced unpleasant dental procedures may make one have dental anxiety. Moreover, previous personal experiences may also be a cause of the fear of pain. Although today's dental operations or procedures are less painful, there may be instances when something goes horribly wrong thus causing dental pain.
One may feel embarrassed if they have neglected their teeth. A patient may feel uncomfortable because of the physical closeness of the dentist. For instance, the mouth odors and the rotten state of teeth may make them feel embarrassed.
The Feeling Of Loss Of Control
Human beings like to feel in control of what is happening around them. The fact that one is seated at the dental office with one's mouth wide open makes one think that they are not in control of what is happening in their mouth or body. One may feel overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness.
Past Bad Experience
Previous past experiences at the dentist's office may be a cause of dental anxiety. For instances, if at one time the dentist ended up cutting the patient's mouth or started the procedure before the anesthesia began working, that may be a cause of dental anxiety.
Costs Associated With Dental Checkups Or Operations
Dental procedures often involve many costs, and this may be a cause of anxiety for some people. If one does not have health insurance, then the thought of visiting the dentist may be a cause of anxiety due to the possible high costs of the dental procedure depending on the status of the patient's oral health.
How To Deal With Dental Anxiety
The best way to handle any anxiety issue is to tackle the problem head-on. The first line of action may be one of the hardest since it involves you being in contact with your dentist either in person or over the phone.
Talk And Your Anxieties With Your Dentist
When booking the next appointment let the receptionist, know about your dental fears or anxiety. The dental team can treat you better if speak up and tell them your needs. Ask questions about possible procedures before going to the dentist so that you may alleviate any fears. If you experience pain during the dental procedure, let the dentist know about it. You do not have to be embarrassed about your pain tolerance because people have different measures in dental anxiety scale.
Relaxation often starts in mind, and practices such as prayer and meditation can help in relaxing the mind and alleviating any possible fears. Deep breathing is helpful in relaxing tensed muscles. If you are experiencing dental anxiety, you can start by counting your breaths. This technique is done by inhaling and exhaling at least five times slowly. This practice helps in slowing the heartbeat, thus relaxing you.
Relaxation not only lowers anxiety levels but it also helps the patient to cope with anxiety symptoms. A therapist is usually a great asset in this situation since he or she can teach the patient about the various relaxation techniques if they suspect that the patient has dental anxiety.
Muscle relaxation is also a great technique, where the patient starts by relaxing the body from the toes to the head. It should start from the head to the toes. For example, one can start by relaxing the muscles associated with the face, then the neck, shoulders, etc.
General anesthesia is the process of depressing consciousness using drugs. General anesthesia can only happen in a hospital setting but is a good option for severe anxiety.
This option is not applicable in some treatments such as those that need several appointments such as a root canal procedure that is carried out in several sessions. General anesthesia is best suitable for procedures that are most difficult and extremely painful or in cases of severe dental anxiety. It has possible side effects such as drowsiness and patients should not drive after the procedure. But remember that using general anesthesia does not help the patient to learn anxiety coping strategies and may become a 'crutch' if other techniques aren't learned.
Use Of Distractions
The use of distraction technique is very helpful as it helps in diverting the patient from the perceived painful or unpleasant procedure. Distraction helps in dealing with dental anxiety by decreasing avoidance behavior and by decreasing the perception of the dental procedure being unpleasant. Some of the possible ways of distraction are watching videos, background music, and computer games. Taking a short break is also a great way of distracting the patient.
Music helps in influencing the human brain leading to relaxation and reduction of anxiety. Music is a combination of distraction and relaxation. Patients with dental anxiety can also distract himself or herself by wearing earplugs and noise-canceling earphones to get rid of the frightening drilling sounds.
Use Of Happy Gas
The happy gas or the laughing gas helps patients to relax during dental procedures. Happy gas is nitrous oxide. One gets it through a mask through which the patient breathes nitrous oxide and oxygen. The patient feels relaxed but remains awake. Some people find the relaxed sensation from the happy gas and can overcome their dental anxiety from the use of it alone. Others find that combining happy gas with relaxation techniques best controls dental anxiety.
Use Of medications For Relieving anxiety
Dentists can prescribe medications for relieving anxiety such as diazepam, to help the patients relax. Dentists can sometimes give small and single dose one hour before the dental procedure to help the patient deal with dental anxiety. Remember that medication should only be taken under the guidance of the doctor. Therefore, the next time that you are visiting your dentist does not take any medication unless advised by the dentist. Always remember to have someone who can drive you after a dental procedure if you happen to be given any anxiolytic medication.
Conscious sedation involves the use of drugs that depress the central nervous system, thus enabling the dental procedure to be carried out. During conscious sedation, verbal contact is maintained throughout the procedure. One can administer conscious sedation through inhalational, oral, rectal, intramuscular, and intravenous.
Conscious sedation does not apply to all patients because pre-existing conditions affect the type of sedation that one gets. Patients should not drive after the procedure because of the possible side effects of conscious sedation such as drowsiness and nausea. Sedation should not be habitual practice and should only be applicable out when there is a specific indication.
Although these tips are a start, there are many other ways to cope with dental anxiety. Do not let dental anxiety prevent you from getting proper oral health. Contact us at BetterHelp, and our counselors will help you address your dental anxiety issues. Let us help you in overcoming dental anxiety.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
How can I reduce dental anxiety?
What are some symptoms of dental anxiety?
Is dental anxiety normal?
Why is dental anxiety so common?
What can dentists do for nervous patients?
How do dentists stop panic attacks?
How can I calm my anxiety before going to the dentist?
What is oral anxiety?
Why are dentists suicidal?
Can Dentists tell if you have anxiety?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s):
How can I overcome dental anxiety?
It is crucial for individuals with dental anxiety to find a dentist that they trust and feel comfortable communicating with about their dental fears and concerns. One might benefit from utilizing coping skills for managing anxiety such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication or varying levels of sedation may be used to reduce anxiety levels during a dental appointment.
What can a dentist give you for anxiety?
If you are experiencing dental anxiety, you may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication you can take prior to a dental appointment. A dentist may also try conscious sedation (such as nitrous oxide) to reduce anxiety during your dental procedure. For more invasive procedures or in extreme cases, general anesthesia may be used to put an individual into a deep sleep.
How common is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is common, as studies show that 36% of individuals experience fear around going to the dentist at some level. For 12% of individuals, dental anxiety is severe. Individuals experiencing extreme dental anxiety may avoid going to the dentist and getting necessary procedures, resulting in poor oral health.
Is Xanax good for dental anxiety?
Individuals experiencing dental anxiety may find it helpful to take oral anti-anxiety medications prior to a dental appointment. Xanax (and other benzodiazepines) work on the brain and central nervous system to produce a calming, sedating effect. Speak to your doctor if you are interested in exploring medication as an option for treating dental anxiety.
Can anxiety affect teeth?
Yes! Anxiety and stress have been shown to exacerbate bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching). Many individuals may not even be aware that they are grinding their teeth, as it often takes place overnight. Bruxism can lead to unpleasant effects such as facial pain, headaches and even cause temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).
How do I cope with anxiety?
There are many coping skills that might help an individual manage their anxiety. Examples include journaling, exercise, meditation and deep breathing, and reaching out for support of trusted friends and family . If an individual is experiencing ongoing anxiety that is impacting daily functioning, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder requiring further treatment. Treatment for anxiety disorders includes psychotherapy, medications, or both.
What is oral anxiety?
Oral anxiety is also known as dental anxiety. Studies show that 36% experience fear around going to the dentist at some level. For 12% of individuals, dental anxiety is severe. Individuals experiencing extreme dental anxiety may avoid going to the dentist and getting necessary procedures, resulting in poor oral health.
Will a dentist put you to sleep if you ask?
A dentist may use conscious sedation (using nitrous oxide or ‘laughing gas’) to reduce anxiety levels during a dental procedure.
Can I take Xanax before going to the dentist?
Yes. Individuals with dental anxiety can take Xanax (or another anti-anxiety medication) an hour before a dental appointment. If taken in an appropriate dosage, it can be combined with nitrous oxide during a dental appointment.
How do I know if my dentist is good?
Selecting the right dentist for you can be a lengthy process. It is helpful to seek recommendations for dentists from your doctor, trusted friends and family . An indication of a high quality dentist is if they are in good standing with the American Dental Association. It is also crucial for a dentist to be someone who takes the time to listen to and understand your needs, and can be patient with you if you are experiencing dental anxiety.
Why you shouldn't be afraid of the dentist?
Anxiety is often irrational. Despite rationally recognizing that dental appointments pose minimal threat, individuals with anxiety disorders will experience fear that is out of proportion to the situation. It is important not to shame yourself for experiencing these fears. Instead, seek out the support of a mental health professional who can work with you to employ various coping strategies so you are able to receive necessary oral care.
Can I take Xanax before nitrous oxide?
Yes- a single dose of Xanax can be combined with nitrous oxide during a dental appointment.
What pill do they give you for sedation dentistry?
In many cases, the medication given for oral sedation is Halcion (which is in the same drug class as Valium and Xanax).
What does xanax do?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine that increases the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain to produce a calming effect. It is highly prescribed for the short term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders.
Is teeth grinding a sign of anxiety?
Bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching) is highly connected to anxiety and stress. It often happens during sleep, but can also continue during waking hours. Many individuals are not even aware when they are grinding their teeth. Effects of teeth grinding include worn down teeth, facial pain, headaches, and potentially even temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).