For most people, the idea of visiting the dentist is a tolerable necessity. But, for others, just the thought of a dental appointment creates deep-down, genuine terror.
Dental anxiety might sound strange or even silly if you don’t have it. But if you do have dental phobias and fears, you know all-too-well how serious the condition can be. Fortunately, there are several solutions to help someone with even severe dental phobia get through a dental appointment comfortably.
Dental Anxiety Explained
There are two different types of dental anxiety. Dental fear is intense discomfort about the thought of visiting the dentist. People with dental fears will typically avoid making a dental appointment unless they’re in constant pain.
Dental phobia is much more severe. Someone with a dental phobia has an overwhelming, even irrational fear of visiting the dentist. They’re unlikely to schedule an appointment even if they’re in pain for an extended period of time.
Dental fears and phobias can keep you from seeking proper dental treatment. In a rather cruel twist, lack of regular preventative care can actually result in you spending more time in the dental chair. If serious oral health problems develop then more complex procedures, including dental surgery, might be necessary.
Enlist the Help of Your Dentist
The first step in fighting dental anxiety is small but significant. You need to tell your dentist about your fears. Sometimes people with dental anxiety feel their concerns are silly or unimportant. But that’s simply not true.
Your dentist can only help if he or she is aware of the problem. Don’t worry that you’re insulting him or her, either. Dentists aren’t going to take your dental fears personally; they just want to help!
Remove the Mystery from Dental Procedures
The sharp hook of the scraper. The high whine of the drill. Dental offices have more than a few unpleasant sights, sounds and sensations. Dentists understand the tools of their trade can really cause your imagination to run wild.
A dentist who specializes in anxiety-free services will carefully explain each step of every procedure. They’ll let you handle the instruments, examine the equipment and ask as many questions as you like. Dental knowledge can go a long way towards soothing dental fears.
Block Any Sources of Discomfort
Of course, just because you know exactly what’s going on doesn’t mean your dental anxiety will completely disappear. In many cases, you’ll also want to block the source of your anxiety from your eyes and ears.
Most dental offices offer the option of audio/video distraction. With a pair of headphones and a ceiling-mounted screen, you can watch a movie or TV show while ignoring the dental work being performed.
Calm Fears with Sedation Dentistry
Information and distraction tend to work well against dental fears, but they’re usually ineffective against dental phobias. Instead, phobias are often far more effectively treated by a technique called sedation dentistry.
Sedation dentistry uses mild sedatives to help patients remain calm. A few different types of sedatives are available.
Oral sedatives are one of the most popular and common types of sedatives. You simply take the sedative about a half-hour before the procedure. While you won’t be completely unconscious during the work, later on you’ll have very little memory of the details. For safety reasons, you’ll need someone to drive you to and from the dentist’s office.
Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is another type of sedation. The gas is inhaled in the office under the supervision of the dentist. Like oral sedation, nitrous oxide creates a deep sense of relaxation without complete unconsciousness. The effects don’t last long, so you might be able to drive yourself home (your dentist will provide details).
IV sedation is the third type of sedative. Fast-acting and powerful, intravenous sedation is often a great choice for help with severe dental phobias. On the downside, IV sedation isn’t the best option for anyone afraid or uncomfortable around needles.
The Difference between Sedatives and Anesthesia
Most dental procedures require that you’re awake enough to respond to simple commands from the dentist. So general anesthesia, which renders the patient completely unconscious, is almost always reserved for dental surgery.
However, sedation methods don’t numb pain. After the sedative has taken effect, a local anesthetic will likely be injected into your gums. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of needles. The sedation will remove or heavily minimize any anxiety.
Reducing Anxiety about Dental Costs
Even if you feel completely comfortable about visiting the dentist, you still likely have some fear about paying too much for services. A dental discount plan is often an effective treatment for anxiety about dental care costs.
A dental discount plan is a membership club which provides savings on a wide variety of dental procedures both minor and major. Over 100,000 dentists nationwide accept discount savings cards. As a member, you simply present your card to any participating dentist for instant savings of 15% to 60%.
Dental fears and phobias can feel overwhelming — but help is available. Discuss your anxiety with your dentist today to learn more about the strategies designed to keep you comfortable when sitting in the dentist’s chair. Anxiety-free dentistry will keep you smiling during every appointment!