how to deal with dental anxiety

Let’s face it: few people truly love going to the dentist. But for some, just the thought is enough to get their heart racing. If you are among the estimated 9-15% of the US population who suffers from dental anxiety, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. More importantly, there are things we can do to help. If you don’t know how to deal with dental anxiety, but you know you need to find a way, we would love to help you. Once you can overcome your anxiety, you can get the dental care you need.

 

What Causes Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety—which generally brings a sense of nervousness or stress—can come from many different sources. Some patients who feel anxious report having had a bad experience in their past, either as a child or an adult. Others are nervous because of the sounds in the dental office, or because they have a fear of needles. In other cases, patients report feeling anxious because they simply do not know what to expect. Perhaps you have had a dental emergency in the past that proved to be difficult to get through. Or maybe you are embarrassed about your “bad teeth” or lack of dental care. It could be any number of things.

Anxiety can also turn into a more severe dental phobia if a patient is so fearful that he or she will do just about anything to avoid having to go to the dentist. In these more extreme cases, the danger is that patients are suffering from deteriorating conditions that will ultimately do more widespread damage if not treated.

 

Why it’s Important to Confront Your Anxiety

For most of us, it’s easier to avoid the things that make us nervous. However, if you are struggling with dental anxiety, we highly encourage you to let us know so we can help you overcome it. All too often, we see patients who put off making an appointment for far too long, and by the time we see them, their treatment options are more limited, more invasive, and more expensive. For example, that small filling that could have been quickly cleaned out and filled several years ago is now a tooth that requires a root canal and a crown. The sooner we are able to diagnose troubled areas, the more easily we can address them. This will ultimately mean less stress for you, and a better overall comfort level with the dental office. Undiagnosed or untreated dental conditions like gum disease and tooth abscesses have far-reaching effects on your heart, lungs, and even during pregnancy. Bacteria in your mouth will travel throughout your body’s systems, so it is important to get it under control.

 

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Tips to Stay Calm At The Dentist

You might be thinking, “Great, now I'm more nervous!  How am I supposed to get over my fears?” First, we want you to know that you are not alone. You are not the only patient we have talked to that deals with anxiety, and you are not the only one who has put off treatment because of it. Second, we want to help you so you can get back on track and develop a great relationship with our entire team. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

  1. Communicate your concerns

    Whether it’s a fear of needles or a fear of the unknown, we will be better able to help you have a great appointment if we know what aspects are likely to make you anxious. We are happy to talk through these with you and develop an action plan to make you more comfortable.

  2. Ask about sedation

    We have some dental anxiety treatment options available. Some patients do great with nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) to help with relaxation. Others may benefit from oral sedation like Valium, particularly for bigger procedures. Both of these can help with overall relaxation as well as alleviating specific fears of injections or the sounds of dental equipment. Be sure to ask your dentist about your options for sedation.

  3. Listen to music

    If you are especially bothered by the sounds in a dental office--primarily the drill--bring earbuds and listen to some music during your appointment. It can go a long way toward distracting you from what is happening around you.

  4. Take it slow

    If you know you are likely to be nervous, we can allow a little extra time for your appointment. Likewise, if you have several treatment items to complete, we can go one at a time to make sure you are comfortable throughout the process if that sounds like a better option for you. During your appointment, let us know if you need to take a short break.

  5. Tell us what works for you

    Some people do better with a lot of information and constant communication throughout the procedure. Others really would rather not know what’s happening; they just want to get through it. You know yourself best, so let us know if you have a preference so we can accommodate you.

  6. Take a deep breath

    Breathing exercises are great for relieving stress and anxiety. These are best practiced prior to your appointment so they come to mind easily. Find the ones that work best for you and rehearse them several times in a non-threatening environment.

  7. Remember the goal

    Sometimes, reminding yourself of why this is important will help give you that extra boost of courage. While no one wants to think about the negative effects of putting off treatment, remembering that you will be healthier once this is complete may help keep you focused. Prevention is key to great dental health. Today’s filling is better than next year’s root canal. Today’s root canal is better than losing your tooth altogether. And today’s extraction means you can heal and not have oral bacteria impacting other areas of your health.

 

Taking the First Step Towards Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist

Often, when confronting a fear or phobia, the first step is the hardest. If you don’t know how to deal with dental anxiety, we can help. Once you call us and we can talk you through your options, you will likely feel a little better about coming in for your appointment. And once you come in and meet our staff, we are confident that you will be ready to partner with us so we can help you get the treatment you need in as comfortable a setting as possible.  If you need a dentist in Atlanta for anxiety feel free to contact Peach Valley Dental at 405-254-5196 or schedule an appointment online.

Kelle Dennis, D.D.S
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