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Dental Anxiety and Fear

The overwhelming fear of dental appointments can be a common cause of anxiety.  Many people visualize a drill-wielding man in a white coat just waiting to cause pain and remove teeth.  The reality, however, is very different.  The comfort, relaxation and happiness of the patient are embedded deep at the heart of any good dental practice.  The staff at the practice will do whatever they can to reduce anxiety, allay fears and provide painless, quick treatments.

Recent technological advancements have meant that in many cases, dentists are able to replace noisy drills with painless laser beams.  There are also a wide variety of safe anesthetics available to eliminate pain and reduce anxiety during routine appointments.

Here is a list of some of the most common dental fears:

  • Fear of embarrassment about the condition of teeth.
  • Fear of gagging.
  • Fear of injections.
  • Fear of loss of control.
  • Fear of not becoming numb when injected with Novocain.
  • Fear of pain.
  • Fear of the dentist as a person.
  • Fear of the hand piece (or the drill).

How can one overcome dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety and fear can become completely overwhelming.  It is estimated that as many as 35 million people do not visit the dental office at all because they are too afraid.  Receiving regular dental check ups and cleanings is incredibly important. Having regular routine check ups is the easiest way to maintain excellent oral hygiene and reduce the need for more complex treatments.

Here are some tips to help reduce dental fear and anxiety:

Talk to the dentist – The dentist is not a mind reader.  Though it can be hard to talk about irrational fears with a stranger, the dentist can take extra precautions during visits if fears and anxiety are communicated.

Bring a portable music player – Music acts as a relaxant and also drowns out any fear-producing noises.  Listening to calming music throughout the appointment will help to reduce anxiety.

Agree on a signal – Many people are afraid that the dentist will not know they are in significant pain during the appointment, and will carry on the procedure regardless.  The best way to solve this problem is to agree on a “stop” hand signal with the dentist.  Both parties can easily understand signals like raising the hand or tapping on the chair.

Spray the throat – Throat sprays (for example, Vicks® Chloraseptic® Throat Spray) can actually control the gag reflex.  Two or three sprays will usually keep the reflex under control for about an hour.

Take a mirror – Not being able to see what is happening can increase anxiety and make the imagination run wild.  Watching the procedure can help keep reality at the forefront of the mind.

Sedation – If there is no other way to cope, sedation offers an excellent option for many people.  There are several types of sedation, but the general premise behind them is the same: the patient regains their faculties after treatment is complete.

Ask about alternatives – Advances in technology mean that dental microsurgery is now an option. Lasers can be used to prepare teeth for fillings, whiten teeth and remove staining.  Discuss all the options with the dentist and decide on one that is effective and produces minimal anxiety.

If you have questions or concerns about how the dentist can help you overcome anxiety and fear, please contact the office.