By: Dr. Nizar Kharma
If you’re afraid of going to the dentist, you should know that there are ways to quell dental anxiety and make your dental care experience a lot more tolerable.
Noone really likes going to the dentist. Some people’s fear of the dentist chair is so severe that they worry excessively and even lose sleep over it. For others, the mere thought of it can bring on such fear that they avoid getting the dental care they need.
Dental anxiety is common—up to 15% of Americans avoiding seeing a dentist due to fear. This is even more prevalent in older people, who may have experienced dental care when technologies were not as advanced as they are today. On the contrary, young people do not experience the same anxiety because they have very few negative dental experiences. Dental procedures have come a long way—great strides have been made to focus on patient comfort.
Overcoming Dental Anxiety
If you experience dental anxiety, the following strategies can help calm your fears:
- Communicate with your dentist. Many patients don’t feel comfortable talking with their dentists on a one-on-one level, but this is the best thing you can do to get over your dental anxiety. It is worth mentioning that even your dentist is a patient, too. In fact, some dentists suffer from dental anxiety just like patients, which may come from their childhood dentist not using anesthesia when filling cavities. Therefore, if you are anxious about something, come right out and talk to the dentist about it.
- “Talk” with your hands. It can be difficult to speak when you have a mouth full of dental tools, so talk with your dentist before your procedure about how you will communicate should you have any discomfort or pain. Many dentists ask their patients to raise a hand if they feel any pain or sensation during a dental procedure. That way they can adjust the anesthesia and make sure the patient is comfortable.
- Get distracted. In some dental offices, patients are provided with video glasses to watch movies during dental procedures. Watching television, listening to the radio, or just letting your mind wander can help ease some of your anxiety.
- Consider medication. If you are having a dental procedure that requires anesthesia, rest assured that anesthesia is much more effective today than it was in the past. For some patients, a sedative or nitrous oxide can also help calm their nerves.
- Take a break. Some patients need to take breaks during dental procedures, when anxiety builds up or they start to feel claustrophobic. If you feel like you need a break, let your dentist know.
- Ask about sedation. Some dentists practice sedation dentistry, which is where you receive dental care under partial or full loss of consciousness. Most patients usually don’t need sedation dentistry, but for those whose dental anxiety is so severe that they cannot get dental care any other way, it may be an option.
Your anxiety may come from a fear of the unknown, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before a procedure and make sure that your dentist does everything he or she can to make you feel comfortable during your visit. Getting regular dental care is vital to your oral health, so it’s well worth the effort.