Dental fear or anxiety is very common. Around 15% of the US population suffers from dental anxiety. People with dental fear or anxiety avoid the dentist altogether, which can lead to serious dental issues. Dental fear or anxiety is treatable. Listed below are some tips that can help ease dental fear or anxiety.
Speak Up About Your Fears
When going to a new dental office for the first time, you may feel nervous and unsure of what to expect. It helps to write down a list of questions you’d like answered ahead of time so the visit can be more productive and less filled with uncertainty. You can also share your concerns with the dentist or hygienist at the start. The more you talk openly about your anxiety, the better the staff will be able to address it and provide reassurance. It can also be helpful to choose a signal with your dental team to let them know you need a break or need to talk about something. Letting your dentist know and creating a trusting relationship will help you feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair.
Agree On A Signal
Agree on a signal that you will use when you are uncomfortable or in pain and need a break. This could be as simple as raising your hand or holding your breath while you are having a procedure done. It is important to communicate this with your dental hygienist before any work is done so you know they will notice the signal and pause to give you some space. If you have anxiety that is preventing you from getting the dental care you need, talk to your dentist about your concerns and preferences, so they can create a treatment plan that will work for you. They may even be able to refer you to a specialist for more advanced care.
Take A Trusted Person With You
This is especially crucial if you’re nervous or fearful. Bringing a family member or close friend to an appointment can help ease any stress you may be feeling and will give you someone to talk to who you know understands your concern. They can also help you relax by distracting you with conversation or other activities.
Bringing reliable distractions to your dental appointment can ease anxiety and help you relax in the chair. The dentist’s office offers a number of great activities to keep you from getting bored. Consider bringing a book or magazine to read or listening to an audiobook on your phone. Be sure to bring headphones and ask the office staff if your phone is allowed during your visit. Televisions are also usually available to watch during your appointment.
Consider Sedation Dentistry
If fear is keeping you from getting the dental care you need, then talk to your dentist about your options. There are a variety of methods available for dentist visits that don’t involve anxiety or pain. This could be something as simple as learning some breathing techniques to help you relax during an appointment, to taking a mild sedative before a procedure. The dentist can also discuss the pros and cons of sedation, so you know exactly what to expect and can decide if it is right for you.
Some dentists offer “sedation dentistry” to help their patients feel more comfortable during their procedures. This usually involves administering nitrous oxide through a mask placed over your nose. Once it is fully inhaled, the gas helps the patient feel relaxed and calm. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours before it wears off on its own. During this time, you will need someone to drive you home.
Another type of sedation that a dentist can provide is called oral conscious sedation. This involves taking a pill about an hour before the appointment and then continuing to take it as directed throughout the procedure. This method is especially useful for patients who have severe anxiety and may be unable to get numb with local anesthesia alone. When this method is used, however, you will need to have someone drive you to and from the appointment. Oral conscious sedation will last for several hours and will mean that you will feel groggy for the rest of the day. It can also cause nausea, so it is best avoided if you are already feeling sick that day.
To learn more, please schedule an appointment online or call All Smiles Family Dentistry at (319) 553-3085 to have a consultation with Dr. Jennifer A. Stevenson or Dr. Sarah Cyr, and we will be happy to help.