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.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Some people’s fear of going to the dentist or getting dental procedures done is so severe that they lose sleep at night and worry excessively about what might happen at the dentist’s office. Dental anxiety is common, with up to 15 percent of Americans avoiding seeing a dentist due to fear. Dental anxiety is often more common in elder adults who had experiences previous to today’s technology, as well as children who are new to the experience.
How to Overcome Dental Anxiety
For people who have dental anxiety, the following strategies can help calm your fears:
- Communicate with your dentist. The best thing you can do to get over your dental anxiety is to talk to your dentist about it. Remember – dentists are also patients, too.
- “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. For example, that you will raise a hand should you feel any pain or sensation during a dental procedure. That way your dentist is aware and can take the proper steps to make you feel more comfortable.
- Get distracted. Ask your dentist if there are other distractions that you could be doing/viewing while your procedure is happening. 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 if you need it. Sometimes, you may feel as though you need to take a break during your procedure, and that’s okay, too. Let your dentist know if you’re feeling anxious or claustrophobic and more often than not they can allow for you to take a few minutes before continuing.
- Ask about sedation dentistry. In some areas, there are dentists who practice sedation dentistry, which is where you get dental care under partial or full loss of consciousness. Harms says that most patients probably don’t need sedation dentistry, but for those whose dental anxiety is so severe that they refuse to get dental care any other way, it may be an option.