Dental anxiety affects a substantial portion of our population. While most people have some level of anxiety when going to the dentist, some people take it a step farther and are so fearful that they can not even get themselves through the dentist’s front door. Recent statistics show that approximately 15-20% of Americans have avoided dental care due to dental fears or anxiety. The reasons for anxiety can be very different from individual to individual. These fears and anxieties can include fear about feeling rushed by the dentist, possible dental pain, or even just as simple as the smells and sounds of a dentist’s office. Dental anxiety and dental phobias can cause unnecessary dental (like periodontal disease) and general health issues to arise that otherwise could have been avoided with proper, timely care.
Symptoms of Dental Anxiety
Some of the common symptoms of dental anxiety include:
- Upset stomach
- Hot flashes
- Palpitations and increased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty breathing
- The urge to cry at the thought of going to the dentist
- Difficulty sleeping before dental examinations
- Intense discomfort at the thought of going to the dentist
The more severe the dental anxiety, the more difficult positive dental health outcomes become. Especially if you have put off visiting the dentist for several years.
Fortunately, there are several methods and tools you can use to overcome dental anxiety, both in the dentist’s office and out, to help you figure out how to stay calm at the dentist. The more tools you are able to use to assist you before or during your next dental examination, the better you will equip yourself to manage your dental anxiety more effectively.
What is dental phobia?
Dental phobia is tends to be more severe and less frequent than dental anxiety. This condition makes people completely overwhelmed and frightened when even considering visiting a dentist.
There are varying degrees of dental phobia. Most people with dental phobia can avoid booking an appointment until they have a painful problem. The same thing that causes dental anxiety can cause a dental phobia. Bad experiences at another dental office can also lead to dentist phobia.
People with dental phobia often know that their fears are unreasonable. However, they are still struggling to deal with the feelings of panic without help.
Signs that you may have dental phobia include:
-Incredibly nervous as the date of dental appointments approaches
-Difficulty sleeping and eating before visiting the dentist
-Become sick before dental examination or treatment
-Very excited and crying before seeing the dentist
-Suddenly feeling like you are having trouble breathing before or during your visit
Dental Anxiety Tips
–Choosing The Right Dentist And Staff. That’s right, and it is not just about the dentist. The dental staff is crucial in maintaining a calm, soothing atmosphere where you feel welcomed and invited at every visit. A well-trained, experienced dentist and staff can make you feel at ease throughout your dental treatment and make it an enjoyable experience. Ask friends, relatives, or co-workers for recommendations. A good review about a dentist from someone you trust can significantly reduce dental fear. Also, read online reviews and search dentist websites for clues that they take the time for anxious patients. All of this information can let you better understand who the dentist is and if they are suitable for you and your family. Lastly, schedule an appointment for a consultation so that you can meet the dentist and staff to see if they make you feel comfortable enough to schedule further appointments.
–Communication. One of the most critical factors in overcoming dental anxiety is a good, open line of communication between dentist and patient. You must always feel comfortable expressing your feelings, fears, and concerns before, during, and after the completion of treatment. You must also think that you are listened to when you speak up and that the dental staff is making adjustments as needed to make you comfortable.
Communication should never be compromised for any patient, but it is even more critical for a patient with dental anxiety. Open communication will allow you to feel a sense of comfort and well-being that you may have never thought could happen in a dental office before.
–Feeling Of Being In Control. This feeling comes from the confidence in knowing you can stop or start treatment whenever you need to. You should always feel comfortable controlling your dental treatment. Making treatment decisions based upon options, how long your appointments should be, and how often you are comfortable coming in for treatment. Another aspect of being in control is to give yourself the power of knowledge about your dental care.
Dental Anxiety Can be Overcome!
This will allow you to understand the treatment steps and why you need to follow through. Being in control will allow you to adequately express your feelings about how much treatment you can handle. A well-educated patient is the best kind of patient.
-Own Your Emotions. For many who have neglected their dental care due to fear, there can be a sense of embarrassment. Express your feelings and allow your dentist to understand your emotions, so they are adequately addressed. Panic, tears, needing your handheld, etc., are coping mechanisms to fear. It is ok to get emotional at the dental office. You can and should be able to express your emotions without embarrassment. Remember that the dentist and staff help you overcome your fears and complete treatment to keep you healthy.
–Practice Relaxation Techniques.
1. Proper, controlled Breathing. Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during dental procedures. When people feel anxiety or nervousness, we tend to hold our breaths or breathe in short rapid breaths. Breathing changes decrease oxygen levels in the body, or hyperventilation, further increasing our feelings of panic. Breathing regulation can occur with regular steady breaths.
2. Listen To Music Or Books On Tape. For many, the sound of the dental office is a trigger for dental anxiety. Listening to music or a good book with headphones can drown out the noises and relax you.
3. Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure; This can trigger panic attacks, make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or give you the feeling of a fast-beating heart. Caffeine before a dental appointment should be avoided if you are prone to these effects.
4. Choose Pre Dental Meals Carefully. Eating foods high in protein can produce a calming effect.
5. Timing Is Everything. The time of day for your dental appointment can be critical. Try to choose a time for your dental visit when you are least likely to be rushed or feel under pressure. Many patients prefer first thing in the morning, so they do not have the time to dwell on the upcoming visit.
-Repetition. The simple process of repeat appointments will make you feel more comfortable and at ease. As you learn what to expect and realize that you are in control of the appointment, you will manage more time in the chair. Remember not to wait too long between appointments or to reschedule unless an emergency arises.
Merely coming to the office and not having treatment that day is better than canceling. Also, remember there may be setbacks along the way. That is ok you are in control.
–Predictable Pain Control. Every patient is slightly different. What may work for one may not work for another. Let your dentist know if you have a history of difficulty getting numb. Be sure to let your dentist know whether or not you still feel sensitivity or lack of complete numbness. When you can trust that your comfort will be a priority, you will find that your anxiety rapidly diminishes.
Costs to avoid the dentist
Avoiding the dentist can lead to a cycle of poor oral health. Patients who postpone dental treatment tend to be at increased risk of periodontal disease, tooth decay, and premature tooth loss.
Unfortunately, oral health problems can also affect your overall health. Poor oral health is associated with conditions such as heart disease and lung infections.
Avoiding the dentist also comes with an emotional price. Without dental treatment, you may suffer from cosmetic problems that affect your teeth and gums (especially gum disease).
Discoloration or damage to your teeth can lead to an embarrassing life. It can cover your mouth when you talk or laugh, which can hurt your self-esteem.
Overcoming dental anxiety can be a trying experience, but with time and patience, it is possible not to be anxious about future dental visits. It is crucial to find the right dentist and dental staff so that you can move forward and free yourself from dental anxiety once and for all. Know what you are looking for in a dentist, and be prepared with questions for your meeting. Remember, it is ok to shop around. You will know when you have found the right dentist for you!
Contact Marielaina Perrone DDS at (702) 458-2929 to schedule a no-cost cosmetic consultation appointment if you are ready for a smile makeover. We cannot wait to help you with your smile makeover to create the smile of your dreams in Summerlin, Henderson, and Las Vegas, NV.