Everyone has some amount of reluctance to go to the dentist. It’s not a day that anyone looks forward to, even if they’ve come to terms with needles and drills. It’s still not top of anyone’s list of fun activities. But some studies show that up to 75% of patients experience mild to severe dental fear. That’s more than just reluctance--that’s being scared. What can be done about being terrified of the dentist?
Dental phobia, and its lesser cousin dental anxiety, are very real psychological aversions to going to the dentist. Now, not every patient who is afraid of a drill necessarily has dental phobia, but it’s worth looking at, and seeing how to get over it. If we can get people through big things, like dental phobias, then we can get them through smaller things, like dental discomfort and unease.
Dental anxiety and dental phobia can be characterized by trouble breathing, crying, feeling tense or anxious, insomnia, restlessness, nausea, headaches, and a plain unwillingness to go to the dentist.
People fear the dentist for many reasons. One of the biggest is the fear of pain, and this is often built on negative experiences that they’ve had at the dentist in earlier parts of their life--back before we had pain management more under control.
Another big fear is the loss of control: you’re sitting in a chair, completely subject to the will of the hygienist and dentist, and that can be disconcerting.
Embarrassment is a huge reason that people are afraid to go to the dentist--maybe they know they haven’t been the best brusher or flosser and they’re afraid of what their dentist is going to say about their bad teeth situation.
Needles is another fear, and this one may have nothing to do with dentists. People just have an aversion to needles, period.
The best thing you can do to get over your fears is to communicate. Trust us: we deal with dental anxiety and dental phobia every single day. We have worked with people who have the very same concerns that you have, and we know how to help them. If you have concerns about something, just tell us and we will make it as easy as possible. We can walk you through every step of the process, talk you through every procedure. We find that if we keep the communication open between the patient and the dentist, most of the anxiety can be controlled.
Now we know that there are readers out there who are thinking to themselves that no amount of communication is going to get them through a dentist’s visit. The good news is that we now have tools we can use to make the entire process easier, namely sedation dentistry.
There are three levels of sedation dentistry: mild sedation, moderate sedation, and deep sedation. Mild is there to help you feel relaxed and is the most common type of sedative. This is oxygen mixed with nitrous oxide that is applied through the nose.
Moderate sedation is the next step up, and can either be done with over-the-counter medication or IV sedation. You’ll still be able to respond to verbal commands but you may have memory loss about the procedure--and maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Deep sedation is where you likely won’t remember any of the procedure. You may be able to respond to a few commands, but we monitor your respiration, blood pressure and pulse rate continuously.
Any three of these options will make getting through a dentist’s visit despite dental anxiety with very little worry, pain, or embarrassment. We can do all the hard work and you can drift off, waking only when it’s time to go.
There was a time when dentist visits were scary and painful, but advances in techniques and sedation have made it so that a dentist visit is nothing to worry about. But if you have any concerns, give us a call, and we can explain everything to you over the phone, before you ever get in the chair. It’s our goal to make this the most pleasant experience you’ve ever had in a dental chair, and we'll help you every step of the way.