What is Dental Anxiety And How to Treat it5 Oct 2021
Dental anxiety is a term used to describe fear, anxiety or stress in a dental setting (1).
The concerns that raise dental anxiety vary; for some, it’s the fear of perceived pain, for others, it can be an embarrassment issue of having to their show teeth, especially when self-conscious about them. Sometimes anxiety can also be triggered by a previous traumatic dental experience, previous trauma to the head and neck or a fear of loss of control (1).
Some patients who have generalised anxiety or phobias, OCD, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder may also experience dental anxiety more than others. When dental anxiety is severe and results in irrational fear and complete avoidance of going to the dentist, it can be classified as a dental phobia (1).
If you have dental anxiety, it is important to speak to your dental professional about your concerns – especially if it is causing you to miss appointments. Attending dental appointments is an essential part of maintaining good oral health and good overall health. Unfortunately, when patients miss their dental appointments, it can lead to problems with oral health and consequently create more dental anxiety due to the declining oral health conditions. Therefore, by attending regular dental checkups where we can examine and clean your teeth, it helps to prevent many oral health conditions such as cavities, infections and gum disease from occurring or progressing. It is also important to remember that your mouth is attached to the rest of your body, so by maintaining good oral health, you are helping to maintain overall good health.
At Bond St, we want you to be as comfortable as possible (both mentally and physically) during your appointments with us and we will work with you to help you get to a comfort level you are satisfied with while at our practice. Did you know that many anxious dental patients who find a dentist who is sympathetic to their situation, are able to cope with going to the dentist? With that in mind, we feel that open communication is essential in the relationship between a patient and their dental provider as it not only allows a patient’s concerns to be fully heard but it allows our team to tailor treatment to the needs of our patients.
For patients who have dental anxiety, the following coping mechanisms may help when attending your dental appointment (1):
- deep breathing
- distraction (such as listening to music or the use of screens)
- guided imagery
- progressive muscle relaxation
- Open communication with the dental provider
If coping techniques are not effective, sometimes patients may benefit from talking to their GP or arranging a referral to a psychologist who can help patients deal with the triggers that cause anxiety in a dental setting. At Bond St, we are also able to arrange the following treatment options to relieve dental anxiety; however, a consultation where we examine your teeth and check over your medical history is required to ensure these options are available to you.
Medications- Some medications such as Valium can be prescribed to our patients to help them feel more relaxed during their dental procedures. Valium is generally taken an hour prior to a procedure and patients will require someone to drive them to and from their dental appointment.
Nitrous oxide gas- Also known as ‘laughing gas,’ nitrous oxide is a conscious sedation that lasts only for the duration of the dental procedure. Patients are still awake during the procedure and are able to hear or respond to the dental provider- they are just more relaxed. Patients are generally able to drive home on their own after having nitrous oxide.
General Anaesthetic– If a patient has severe dental anxiety or a complex dental procedure that needs to be completed, sometimes, general anesthetic will be recommended. General anaesthetic basically puts a patient into a deep sleep for their dental procedure so patients’ are unaware of the procedure being completed. Patients who undergo general anesthetic require somebody to drive them home following their dental procedure. At Bond St, we are able to offer private surgical theatres downstairs for patients who require general anesthetic.
If you have dental anxiety, please be reassured that our amazing team is experienced in working with patients who have dental anxiety. We love seeing patients who once had dental anxiety now come to our practice feeling comfortable! If you would like to discuss your dental anxiety or any other dental concern with us, we look forward to welcoming you and working with you to provide great quality care.
Better Health Channel. (2021). Dental anxiety and phobia. Retrieved from Dental anxiety and phobia – Better Health ChannelDentist Sleep Dentistry Back to Articles