If you get nervous or feel uneasy before dental appointments, you’re not alone. Perhaps you are scared the visit may hurt or you are worried about what the dentist may find.
Dental anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects 40 million Americans every year. Though it is normal to feel some degree of unease with dentists, dental anxiety is used to describe intense feelings of fear, stress, or unease while thinking about the dentist or while being in a dental setting.
For some, dental anxiety can result in avoiding or delaying treatment. If severe enough, dental anxiety can progress into dental phobia leading to the complete avoidance of dentists and their practice.
We understand and acknowledge your concerns and anxiety. We will work with you to ease your fears so that you can feel comfortable during your next appointment.
Though many patients may experience some degree of stress during a dental procedure, patients with dental anxiety can experience feelings of unease at just the thought of a dental appointment. Here are some common symptoms of dental anxiety:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Intense unease during examinations or cleanings
- Low blood pressure
- Racing heartbeat
- Strong gag reflex
- Visible distress such as crying and signs of panic
These feelings can escalate the night before an appointment or while waiting in the office. Dental anxiety can lead patients to delay dental appointments even if they are in pain or need treatment.
Dental Anxiety and Your Oral Health
It may seem reasonable to skip dental appointments if you are not experiencing any pain when you have dental anxiety. However, avoiding the dentist can lead to the build-up of plaque and untreated dental conditions worsening, requiring more complex treatments later on or the need for emergency dental care.
Postponing dental care and visits can also lead to more intensive dental work, feeding the patient’s dental anxiety and unease.
Routine dental examinations and cleanings help to prevent dental disease and detect problems early on before they progress. This allows for simpler, less invasive, and often more cost-effective treatment options as many dental conditions are preventable.
For many, the anxiety may stem from fear of pain throughout procedures or the fear of injections. Others may also feel uncomfortable about the physical closeness during appointments or the tools used during procedures and routine examinations.
While the cause of dental anxiety can vary, our approach does not. We acknowledge your anxiety and will work with you so that your mental, emotional, and oral health are taken care of.
How We Can Help
One of the most important things you can do to overcome dental anxiety is to open a dialogue between you and your dentist about your feelings. By letting your dental office, dental hygienist, and dentist know about your anxiety, steps can be taken to reduce your anxiety and unease throughout your dental experiences.
We will adjust how we approach your oral health to better suit your needs and concerns so your experience in our office can be stress-free.
We can establish a signal, such as a raised hand, that will let us know non-verbally during your appointment that you may need to take a break or that you feel uncomfortable. We can also use conscious sedation, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), general anesthesia, or prescribe anxiety medication for added patient comfort.
During procedures or examinations, you may want to use headphones or earplugs to block out the sounds of tools being used. Consider bringing a stress ball so that you occupy your hands during your appointment or practice deep breathing exercises while in our office to lower your stress levels.
Our staff acknowledges dental anxiety and dental phobia in patients and will work with you to ease your feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Together, we will help you to achieve better oral health and a brilliant, long-lasting smile.
For more information on how we can help you with your dental anxiety, contact Leslie B. Anthony, DMD today.