Solutions to dental anxiety come in many forms. When left untreated, many dental problems only get worse. We can help empower patients with dental anxiety to take the necessary action to treat their underlying conditions.
Solutions to dental anxiety are available at Chandler Goltz, DMD in Slidell and the surrounding area. Fear should never get in the way of your health. Call us at (985) 570-9103 to learn more and schedule an appointment today.
Understanding Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety, also known as dental phobia, is a condition in which patients have a debilitating fear of the dentist. People with dental anxiety are aware that their fear is irrational, but have little to no means of managing it. They may be so panic-stricken by the prospect of seeing the dentist that they will only go when forced by extreme pain. Other common signs of dental anxiety include:
▣ Feelings of intense unease at the thought of a dentist placing objects in the mouth during treatment
▣ Physical reactions at the thought of visiting the dentist
▣ Trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment
At times, dental anxiety may get severe enough to be considered pathological. Patients who find that their dental anxiety severely impedes their normal functioning may benefit from psychiatric treatment.
“People with dental anxiety are aware that their fear is irrational, but have little to no means of managing it.”
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Patients of all ages and backgrounds can have dental anxiety. A multitude of factors may contribute to someone's unease at the prospect of being in the dentist's chair, including but not limited to fear of anesthesia, fear of injections, fear of pain, feelings of embarrassment, and feelings of helplessness.
All of the above are valid reasons to be anxious. Still, they do not have to overtake a patient's dental experience. Patients should be open and honest with their dentist about their anxieties, as this is the first step to phobia management. At John J. Killeen, DDS, we believe communication is key to a successful dentist-patient relationship.
“Patients should be open and honest with their dentist about their anxieties, as this is the first step to phobia management.”
Coping with Dental Anxiety
Dealing with a dismissive dentist may only make the problem worse. Therefore, the first step to managing dental anxiety is finding the right dentist. Patients should also ask office staff about any recommended coping strategies and agree on a signal to let the dentist know if they need to take a break.
Mindfulness techniques can also help. Patients may want to try breathing exercises or doing body scans while in the dentist's chair. Others may benefit from distracting themselves by doing things like wearing headphones or occupying their hands.
Additionally, patients should let the dentist know if they are particularly sensitive to pain, even with local anesthesia. There is no need for patients to feel embarrassed about asking questions or being open about their fear. This is the only way to develop a truly individualized plan to attack one's dental anxiety.
“There is no need for patients to feel embarrassed about asking questions or being open about their fear.”
Sedation & Dental Anxiety
Some patients with more severe dental anxiety may require more intensive management measures. These include:
▣ Relative Analgesia. Also known as “laughing gas,” relative analgesia consists of patients receiving a combination of oxygen and nitrous oxide through a mask fitted to their face. This treatment is quick to take effect and also quick to wear off. Patients remain awake but feel relaxed for the procedure.
▣ Anxiety Medication. Typically, anxiety medication for dental anxiety comes in the form of a pill. It may be prescribed either by a dentist or a doctor. The patient will take a single, short-acting dose about one hour before their dental appointment.
▣ Conscious Sedation. Conscious sedation is a form of intravenous (IV) sedation administered either by a sedation dentist or an anesthetist. Patients under conscious sedation may drift off into a light sleep, making this known as “twilight sedation.”
▣ General Anesthesia. General anesthesia is the most intensive form of sedation, administered through a combination of IV medication and inhaled gases. Patients are put fully to sleep and will require pre- and post-operative visits.
Not all forms of sedation are appropriate for everyone or every dental procedure. Our qualified team works closely with our patients to take the proper measures to provide the most comfortable experience possible.
“Some patients with more severe dental anxiety may require more intensive management measures.”
Children & Dental Anxiety
It is not uncommon for parents to experience dental anxiety on their child's behalf. Parents should maintain a calm exterior as children will pick up on any anxiety displayed by their parents. Parents should refrain from telling their children that something will hurt or be painful, nor should they promise a reward for going to the dentist. Doing so will only cause children to anticipate something unpleasant and act accordingly. While parents should tell their children about any upcoming dental appointments, they should not overload their child with too much detail about what to expect. Dentists have received the training to give simple, non-threatening answers. Parents should prioritize stressing the importance of dental hygiene to their children instead.
“Parents should maintain a calm exterior … as children will pick up on any anxiety displayed by their parents.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What can a dentist do to help my child's dental anxiety?
How common is dental anxiety?
According to WebMD, between 9% and 20% of Americans avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety. People of all ages and backgrounds can suffer dental anxiety.
Are there any other words for dental anxiety?
Do I really need to go to the dentist if I have dental anxiety?
Will my dental anxiety get better over time?
▣ Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry is generally used to refer to any dental work that improves the appearance (though not necessarily the function) of a person’s teeth, gums and/or bite.
Tooth decay is when the enamel of the tooth begins to decay and cause erosion from plaque and tartar on the teeth.
▣ Dental Caries
Dental caries are also known as cavities and result from a lack of proper oral hygiene leaving plaque that forms tiny holes in the teeth.
▣ Dental Checkup
A dental checkup is an appointment that involves cleaning the teeth, identifying any signs of infection and removing said signs of infection at least once every six months in the office.
▣ Dental Filling
A dental filling involves restoring the structure of the tooth by using metal, alloy, porcelain or plastic to fill the tooth.
▣ Dental Prophylaxis
A dental prophylaxis is a professional and detailed cleaning that involves the removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the teeth.
▣ Dental Sealants
Dental sealants contain a resinous material that we apply to the chewing surfaces of the posterior teeth to prevent dental caries.
A dentist, also known as a dental surgeon, is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity.
Gingivitis is the inflammation of gum tissue that results from plaque, other infections in the mouth and poor oral hygiene.
▣ Preventive Dentistry
Preventive dentistry is the dentistry that focuses on maintaining oral health in order to prevent the spread of plaque, the formation of tartar and infections in the mouth.
Tartar forms when plaque builds up on the surface of the teeth and calcifies into a hard surface that is much more difficult to remove and will require professional treatment.
▣ Tooth Enamel
Tooth enamel is the protective visible outer surface of a tooth that contains the dentin and dental pulp.