If you’ve ever been anxious before a dental appointment, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that approximately 36% of people suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia. Here’s a closer look at dental anxiety and some tips on how to manage it.
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety refers to the feeling of uneasiness people sometimes feel when it is time for their dental appointment. It is extremely common, and most people experience some degree of the anxiety especially when they are about to have a dental procedure they’ve never experienced before. There are several reasons why one may be nervous about a dental appointment, such as:
- Previous traumatic dental experiences
- Fear over losing control
- Fear of sharp tools or objects
- Generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder
Signs of Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety affects everyone differently and encompasses a range of symptoms, including:
- Increased sweating and heartbeat
- Low blood pressure or fainting
- Visible distress (crying, panicking, difficulty breathing)
- Using humor or aggression to mask anxiety
- Trouble sleeping the night before the appointmet
How to Cope with Dental Anxiety or Phobia
Most people can live with the feeling of anxiety, but some people experience extreme unease. No matter what the reason may be, dental anxiety can sometimes seriously affect your oral hygiene. If your anxiety is preventing you from keeping up with your regular visits here are some techniques you can try to help manage and cope.
Talk To Your Dentist
If you experience any signs of dental anxiety, the first thing you should do is speak to your dentist. Some people feel better when the dentist tells them what is happening at every step of the process. Other people prefer to have the dentist talk about something other than the work that is being done. By letting your dentist know about your fears and concerns, they can work with you and help minimize your fears.
For many people, dental anxiety kicks in once they’re at their appointment. If you have nothing to do except watch your dentist, it’s easy to start dwelling on negative thoughts. Finding methods to distract yourself is a great way to put your mind at ease and alleviate your anxiety. Distraction techniques include:
- Listening to music
- Fidgeting with an object
- Observing the room
People who experience dental anxiety usually fill their mind with fears and negative thoughts. Clearing and relaxing the mind can help minimize anxiety and make dental appointments go more smoothly. Some leading mindfulness techniques include:
- Breath-work – Start by focusing on each inhale and exhale. Releasing slow, deep breaths can help relax your body, while counting each breath can help relax your mind.
- Body scan meditation – Think about every part of your body, start with your toes and move slowly to the top of your head. Focusing on this visual can help take your mind off the appointment.
- Mantra meditation – Repeating to yourself a simple, positive mantra like “I am okay” or “I am safe” can help keep you calm.
- Visualization – Imagine yourself somewhere relaxing can also help relax you, like at a beach watching the waves.
If you have a more severe level of dental phobia, and distractions and mindfulness techniques are not helping, ask about sedation dentistry. Sedatives can be used to reduce pain and fear while encouraging tranquility.
Oral sedatives consist of a type of medication (known as benzodiazepine) that inhibits activity in the section of the brain that causes fear. However, the drug is not immediately effective and usually needs to be taken about an hour before your scheduled appointment.
Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is a type of sedative delivered by the dentist. The sedative is mixed with oxygen, which is then inhaled through a mask. The result is a feeling of relaxation and euphoria, as well as a reduction in stress and pain. In some cases, patients may feel a tingling in their limbs.
The final type is IV sedation dentistry. This method involves administering an anti-anxiety drug through the blood, which puts both the mind and body at ease. Patients often feel drowsy, and are not fully aware of their surroundings.
Contact JR Dental today!
From identifying tooth decay and cavities to periodontal disease and oral cancer, regular dental check-ups help ensure that your teeth are in prime condition. At JR Dental, our team is committed to keeping you comfortable during your appointments. Whether you need help with finding distractions or are interested in sedation dentistry, our team is happy to talk to you and help figure out the best method for your needs. Learn more by contacting us today at (904) 786-5850.