Dental anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about dental care with an uncertain outcome. This can definitely include visiting the dentist especially after years of dental neglect. Dental anxiety is actually a very common fear but it can get out of control. A paralyzing dental anxiety can cause you to avoid dental care for years and in some cases decades. This dental anxiety and neglect can have long lasting impacts not only on your smile but your overall health. Recent clinical studies have linked dental disease (like periodontal disease) to cardiovascular disease, alzheimer’s disease, and even diabetes.
Dental Anxiety Feelings
Many people with dental anxiety have had a bad experience or have heard from a loved one about a significant dental experience. But that is not only reason some people avoid the dentist. Below you will find some common reasons why dental anxiety and dental neglect can occur:
–Fear Of Pain. Let’s face it no one wants to feel pain or discomfort. While dentistry has come a long way there are some parts that can cause some slight pain for some. For many they are OK but for others they are overly sensitive to oral discomfort. This is quite normal for us all to react differently to different events in our lives. Dentistry does not have to be a painful event and in most cases with a properly trained dentist and staff it is not. Choose wisely.
–Fear Of Unknown. Not knowing what the dentist will say or find can cause a great deal of dental anxiety. Will I have a cavity? Will the dentist say I need a lot of treatment? All valid questions and concerns. Most people fail to realize going to the dentist every 6 months for routine checkups and cleanings will make things easier going forward. This is because any issues are caught immediately and can be handled before they get out of hand. Your gum tissues will also be healthier making the teeth cleaning easier and more comfortable.
–Embarassment. A dentist or doctor is perceived as an authority figure by many. No one wants to be told they have a bad smile or have not done a good job with dental hygiene at home. A well trained dentist would never make you feel embarassed. Your dentist has seen it all. It will not phase them in the least what they find, so it should not bother you either.They would communicate the steps forward to fix the issues at hand. There is nothing to feel embarassed about.
–Past Experiences. This can be a direct experience by you or an indirect experience by a loved one. Either way it will add to the dental anxiety as your dental visit approaches.
Overcoming Dental Anxiety – Communication Is The Key
Relay your fears to the dental staff and dentist. A well trained, experienced dentist will handle all patients the same and make you feel at home in the dental chair. Below are a few tips for you at your dental visit.
–Be Honest and Upfront. Communicate your dental anxiety to the team and dentist so they can help you thru your visit. A well trained dentist will communicate with you and try to alleviate your fears in a variety of ways. These can include inviting you to the office prior to your appointment to just meet and talk. It can also include giving you a detailed explanation of what is to be completed at your visit so you do not have any surprises pop up.
–Early Morning Appointment. For those with dental anxiety, getting the dental care done first thing in morning is best. This way there is no dwelling all day on it. Put your mind at ease and get it done first thing in the morning.
–Bring Support. Bring a close friend or family member with you.
–Use a STOP sign or word. You and your dental team can use a stop word or sign for when you feel the dental anxiety building and you need a break.
“Communication Is The Key To Overcoming Dental Anxiety.” – Marielaina Perrone DDS
Other Dental Anxiety Relieving Methods
-Exercise. Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety. Exercise helps by releasing endorphins and improving your sleep and self-image.
-Supplements Use. Certain supplements can reduce stress and anxiety. These can include ashwagandha, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and lemon balm.
-Aromatherapy. Lighting a candle can help lower anxiety and stress. Lighting a candle or using essential oils can benefit dental anxiety from calming scents.
-Baby Steps. Try not to take on more than you can handle. Saying no is one way to control your dental anxiety. Your dentist will be cognizant of your dental anxiety and space out appointments in what is best for you. Obviously you will not be able to sit in chair for extended periods of time in the beginning so your appointment schedule will reflect your dental anxiety needs.
-Yoga. Just like exercise mentioned earlier yoga can be used for stress reduction and dental anxiety relief. It may help lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure.
-Power Of Music. Listening to your favorite music can be a good way to relieve stress and anxiety.
-Breathing Exercises. Deep breathing activates the relaxation response helping relieve dental anxiety. Focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling. This will help slow down and re-center your anxious mind.
How To Ease Dental Anxiety Conclusion
Dentistry has come a long way and patients comfort is of the utmost concern for most dentists. A well trained dentist will be able to handle your dental anxiety and design a dental schedule that is right for you. The bottom line is to keep you healthy both dentally and overall. Most people with dental anxiety report that the visit to the dentist ended up not being what they had imagined all along. It was much easier. Dental anxiety can be overcome but communication is the key.