Dental Anxiety

If just thinking about your biannual dentist appointment makes you nervous, you’re not alone, and there are options available to help.

What Is Dental Anxiety?

There are varying degrees of dental anxiety, ranging from minor stress to severe phobia. Common causes include a fear of pain, feelings of helplessness and embarrassment, or negative past experiences. Dental anxiety is extremely common, affecting between 30 and 50 million people.

What Can It Lead To?

If the anxiety is extreme enough that it’s causing you to avoid dental appointments, your oral health will suffer. Skipping regular checkups can put you at a higher risk of developing dental issues, which can lead to more urgent visits and therefore an increase of stress and fear.

How to Combat It

If you have dental anxiety, taking these steps can help you manage it:

Discover the options available to you. A popular choice is sedation dentistry – the use of medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. Dentists with specialty training and licensure can administer differing levels of sedation, ranging from minimal, where you are awake but relaxed, to general anesthesia, where you are completely unconscious.

Consult with your dentist about sedation options. Many offices just offer nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Although regularly used, this gas is often not enough to fully remove anxious feelings. Conscious sedation, on the other hand, effectively allows a patient to dissociate from their stressful experience. This medicine is typically administered through a pill or an IV and leaves most patients with little to no memory of the dental procedure. Your dentist can determine if you are a candidate for either oral or IV sedation and help you take the steps necessary to ensure a comfortable experience and maintain your oral health.

Be brave. If you struggle with dental anxiety, take the first step and make an appointment to discuss your concerns with a sedation dentist and find the best option for you. You can reclaim ownership of your oral health and begin going to the dentist without associating these visits with fear.

An Expert Weighs In

“Dental anxiety is real! I have patients who require sedation simply to get their teeth cleaned. All of our senses are on red alert in the dental chair. The whirring of the bur, the scraping, the smell, the needles —it’s all fear-inducing. We offer oral conscious sedation and IV sedation in our office because I want my patients to have the most comfortable experience possible. That way, I know they will leave healthier and with less fear than when they braved the first visit to our office.”

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