Dental Anxiety - Dr. Charles Bell

by Dr. Charles Bell 31. October 2014 15:49

dr. charles bell

So how do you feel about going to the dentist? For some it is almost a non-event, no big deal. For others however, just the thought of the dental visit creates a bead of sweat on their forehead.

Studies have reported that up to 15% of Americans avoiding seeing the dentist due to fear. My guess is that a much higher percentage actually doesn't avoid, but still dread the visit to the dentist. Dental anxiety is more common in older patients who may not have experienced the advanced dental care technologies available today. In those days anesthesia was less effective or not used and dentists did not focus on patient comfort. Children today have very few negative experiences and are not burdened with them unlike their parents.

Dentistry has come a long way in creating a more comfortable experience for patients. As a profession we have placed patient comfort as a high priority, a feeling not held in such regard not so long ago.

How to Overcome Dental Anxiety

  • Communicate. Be very open with your dentist about your anxiety. There are no winners if you try to will yourself into ignoring your feelings. Dentists are very concerned about your experience and should be very open to helping create an environment to help alleviate your anxiousness. Be very specific about what bothers you going to the dentist. This will allow them to make accommodations for you. Talk with your hands. During a procedure it can be difficult to communicate with your mouth full of dental instruments. Make sure you talk with your dentist about how you will use your hands to indicate discomfort or anxiety, so the dentist can adjust the anesthesia and make you comfortable.
  • Get distracted. Many offices have video glasses to watch movies or headphones to listen to music or the television. This helps with the common anxiety concerning noise during a procedure.
  • Take a break. I always ask patients if they need a break during an appointment. Sometimes just taking a walk around the office helps reduce the tension a patient is feeling.
  • Consider medication. The most common medications for dental anxiety are nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and a sedative like Valium. Some dentists practice sedation dentistry in which the patient is either partially or completely unconscious. Most patients do not require this degree of sedation, but there are those that need to be "knocked out". Please discuss the potential medical risks associated with this degree of sedation.

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