Fear of the dentist is not unusual. Most people feel some level of anxiety when it comes to thinking about going to the dentist. Even people who have no major problems with dental visits may have feelings of slight apprehension when it is that time for a dental checkup. For example, you may be worried about what the dentist may discover during your visit, or you may be afraid that there may be some pain involved with your visit.
Usually, these types of feelings are normal for most people. A good dental time will allay those fears and help you feel comfortable and at ease during your visit and through any dental procedures you may need to undergo. Skipping your dental visit due to your apprehension is not a healthy option for several reasons. The longer you resist going to the dentist, the more likely you will develop serious dental problems that will make an eventual visit more inevitable due to dental or gum disease.
On the other hand, overcoming your discomfort in the dental office can make an enormous difference. Not only will you avoid costly and time-consuming emergency dental visits, following through with your regular checkups will help you maintain optimal oral health. If you have cavities that need filling or gingivitis that needs to be addressed, early intervention is always best, and timely follow-up visits will help keep those problems from getting worse. We have suggestions to help ease your anxiety to get the dental care you need to keep your smile healthy and good-looking.
Talk About Your Feelings
Whether mild or severe, dental phobia has ramifications that can affect your general health if the disease in your mouth becomes severe. Sharing your fears with your dentist will help you cope with them. Dentists understand the fear that people have about getting oral care. Unfortunately, dentistry is one of the more intimate health care practices, and many people avoid seeing the dentist until they experience some level of pain or discomfort.
When this happens, it only reinforces the idea that a visit to the dentist means imminent pain even though the pain you experience has nothing to do with the dentist. In fact, the pain is relieved when the issue is managed, but the experience of pain is still linked to visiting the dentist. Talking about your fears before this cycle becomes an issue will pave the way for more effective oral care before the disease has an opportunity to cause serious problems or discomfort.
Let the receptionist know that you are nervous about visiting the dentist when your first book your appointment. Ask that it be noted on your chart. Then, when you come for your visit, be sure to remind the dentist and staff about your anxiety when you are first seen. If you have had previous bad experiences in a dental office, be sure to share them with your dentist so they can know why you have heightened anxiety.
Knowledge of what to expect during your visit can help alleviate some of your distress. Ask questions so you can have a good idea about what to expect. Fear of the unknown can exacerbate anxiety.
Talk with your dentist about a signal if you need a break during an exam or procedure. Raising your hand as a signal is often suggested by dentists. Your dentist does not want you to feel pain if at all possible. With some procedures, such as an extraction, you may feel pressure, but you should not feel pain. Let your dentist know if you are experiencing pain. Let your dentist know if you have a low threshold for pain. You do not need to suffer in silence. Speaking up gives your dentist a better chance of helping you have a comfortable and relaxing experience.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
In fact, deep breathing has been shown to relax the mind and help individuals feel calmer. Deep breathing reduces stress and helps you relax. Inhale slowly through your nose and hold it for a few seconds. Then slowly exhale through your mouth. Deep breathing in this way also helps relax the gag reflex, which can also be a source of anxiety.
Deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation can also help calm you while in the dental office. You may notice that your anxiety may build as you wait for the dentist to begin. Meditation can help reduce stress and center your mind on being calm and relaxed.
Some individuals will focus on an object or close their eyes and picture an object in their mind. As you focus on the object, feel the various parts of your body relaxing. For example, start from the top of your head and go down, relaxing the muscles in your face, neck, shoulders, arms, etc., until you reach your feet.
Go to Your Happy Place
You have probably heard this term before. Although many people may joke about going to their happy place, the guided imagery technique is very effective for inducing a state of calm and relaxation. For some people, their happy place is an imaginary place they visit in their mind. For others, their happy place is not so much a location as it is the practice of calling up pleasant memories from the past. Whether you spend time in an imaginary place or flip through the pages of your mental scrapbook, directing your mind in another direction can help alleviate the worries of being in the dental chair.
There are various levels of sedation for dental patients who have heightened levels of anxiety. When local anesthesia is not enough, the first level of sedation, nitrous oxide, can be used to help you relax. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas as it is commonly called, has been used for over a hundred years to help calm people in the dental chair.
This type of sedation does not put you to sleep but induces a very pleasant, relaxed sensation. The gas is breathed in through a mask during the dental procedure. When the dentist is finished, your system is flushed with pure oxygen. Nitrous oxide seldom has any significant side effects, and once it is flushed out of your system, you are back to normal again.
When this level of sedation is not enough, anti-anxiety medication can be administered. This comes in pill form and is taken about an hour before the appointment. This medication is for moderate anxiety, and you will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home afterward since you may feel drowsy after the medication wears off.
Conscious sedation works similarly, although it is stronger than oral sedation. You remain conscious during the procedure, but you are in a very relaxed state. If you need this type of sedation, you will need assistance in getting home because it takes a while to move out of your system completely.
Patients with severe dental phobia may need general anesthesia to have dental procedures. This level of sedation puts the patient to sleep and is often used in a hospital setting.
If you have a level of dental anxiety that requires sedation of some type, talk to your dentist to find out which type will best serve your needs. Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta offers sedation dentistry to our patients to help them have a better dental experience. Call us today to schedule your appointment.