Although a dental practice is typically the place where individuals find relief from a number of general dentistry problems, there are some individuals that find it incredibly difficult to visit a dentist’s office. These individuals may be battling with overcoming dental fear or anxiety. When an individual begins to excessively worry about their dental appointment, it may be classified as anxiety. If symptoms worsen, however, they may be signs of dental phobia, an extreme fear of dental situations. In order to begin overcoming your fears and phobias, the signs of the condition must first be identified.
Individuals may experience dental phobia days before the date of their appointment. It may also cause:
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty breathing
- Inclination to avoid the appointment
Sources of Dental Fear in Adults and Children
Dental anxiety and dental phobia can affect individuals at any age. Adults or children working to overcome dental fear should communicate with the dedicated staff of their dentist office, so they are aware of the condition. Your dentist should work to accommodate you by finding the best method of care. A kid-friendly dentist is trained in treating a variety of young patients, including those that are working towards overcoming dental fear.
A variety of factors can influence patients’ attitudes toward dentistry. If a patient has undergone previous dental treatment that resulted in a negative experience, for example, they may go on to equate that single experience to all dental encounters. Because anxieties can disrupt one’s life, many sufferers express desires of overcoming dental phobia, but may need more information about the condition and its treatment in order to successfully beat dental fear.
Listed below are common causes of dental anxiety or phobia:
- Anxiety may occur if an individual believes they have no control over the situation they are in.
- Many patients have previously experienced dental trauma, such as extreme pain, causing them to avoid having more dental work performed.
- Some individuals feel self-conscious about their teeth, and are too embarrassed to have a dentist examine their mouth.
- Stress can also trigger anxiety in children and adults.
A very common result of dental phobia is dental neglect. Those that struggle with overcoming dental fear will often avoid visiting a dentist for long periods of time, choosing only to go when their dental state makes it necessary to seek treatment from a dentist. Without proper care, the individual’s teeth can begin to decay and cause severe pain – possibly requiring tooth extraction and oral surgery.
Overcoming Dental Phobia and Anxiety: Where to Begin
There are a variety of suggested solutions that can be used to aid patients in overcoming their dental fear. Some patients and dentists find it helpful to utilize techniques such as:
- Practicing controlled breathing exercises
- Having the procedure explained and demonstrated each step of the way
- Making use of distractions, such as television, music, conversation and toys
If a patient is still unsuccessful in overcoming their dental phobia after attempting these techniques, sedation dentistry may be offered as a solution instead. Sedation dentistry is offered to both adults and children that want to beat dental anxiety. During this procedure, trained specialists administer sedatives to nervous patients who eventually become extremely relaxed, while remaining conscious and capable of communicating with their dentist. This positive encounter in a dental office could contribute to an individual’s efforts at overcoming dental anxiety in the future.
Sleep dentistry, which places patients in an unconscious, immobile state through the use of general anesthesia, differs from sedation dentistry, although people sometimes use the terms interchangeably. The best form of sedative for overcoming dental fear is determined when a dentist considers the patient’s level of anxiety and how it will affect their cooperation and completion of their treatment.
Common forms of dental sedation are:
- IV sedation dentistry – This form of sedation is administered through a patient’s vein or through a shot in the muscle.
- Nitrous oxide – Often referred to as laughing gas, patients inhale this sedative through a mask.
- Oral conscious sedation dentistry – Patients are instructed to take this type of sedative prior to their procedure. This oral sedative is ingested in pill form.
Gaining knowledge and becoming willing to work towards controlling the thoughts and emotions that trigger anxiety, are the first steps in overcoming dental fear. With the help of experienced dentists that specialize in sedation therapy, patients will receive calm, careful, treatment that serves to improve their oral health. If you are in need of dental care, but struggle with overcoming dental fear, you may require treatment from an experienced team of dentists trained in sedation or sleep dentistry.