For many people, dental anxiety is a common thing. Whether the anxiety stems from a bad experience, the fear of pain or embarrassment about the personal state of teeth and gums, this emotion can be detrimental to one’s overall oral health. Because of anxiety or fear, some patients may postpone making a dental appointment, even one for a cleaning and checkup, unless it is absolutely necessary. Others may completely avoid the dentist altogether, even when there is an obvious problem.
It is important to overcome dental anxiety and put oral health first, but this can be hard for some.
Techniques to deal with dental anxiety
The following are some tips to help get over the nervousness and fear.
Focus on the bigger picture
If dental issues are not dealt with in a timely manner, this can lead to major problems later. Focus on keeping teeth healthy and in great shape, and make an appointment to hopefully prevent hours of painful surgery years down the road.
Not all dentists are alike. Some patients may feel more comfortable with a dentist of a particular gender or age. Others may want to find a dentist who is experienced at calming patients with fears and anxiety. Do online research and ask friends for recommendations. Check out each one’s website to get a feel for the dentist as well as the office environment. Some may feel calmer and more comfortable than others.
Communicate fears and concerns
Dentists understand that some patients do not enjoy dental visits, and their job is easier when the person in the chair feels comfortable. From the very beginning, communicate all apprehensions. The right dentist will make an effort to ease any fears and pick up on signals to take a break or switch tactics.
Bring a buddy to the appointments
Having a companion come along to the appointment can make a big difference in someone’s attitude. For a patient who is very fearful, a sidekick can make sure they get in the car and make it to the appointment. A friend or family member can offer support as well as distractions to divert attention from certain unpleasant parts of a visit. Ideally, the buddy should be completely confident and comfortable in a dentist’s office.
Besides having a friend along, there are other distractions to help with dental anxiety. Bring headphones and listen to relaxing music, bring along a stress ball or play with another handheld gadget. Some offices, especially those that specialize in creating a calming environment, may provide videos to help distract patients.
Inquire about sedatives
In cases of severe anxiety or phobias, it may be a good idea to discuss the use of sedatives during the appointment. For less-invasive visits, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) may be all that is needed. For other procedures, options may include a local anesthetic, an IV or an oral sedation. Not all types are advised for everyone, so make sure to choose the option that is best for the situation.
Dental anxiety is common, but there are ways to manage it. Doing so is beneficial in that oral health becomes a priority.
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