If you or your children have a fear of going to the dentist, it can greatly interfere with your dental health. Dental phobias are very real and when not considered as part of your dental treatment plan, can lead to ongoing avoidance that will just make matters worse. However, dentists today understand the challenges faced by patients suffering from dental anxiety and have created evidence-based therapies to help people overcome their fears. Here is how modern dental clinics help with dental anxiety.
Discussing Dental Anxiety
The most important step of overcoming dental anxiety is discussing your fears with your dentist. If even the idea of entering a dental office is too stressful, you can call our office and let us know you suffer from a dental phobia. We can discuss your fears and learn what is causing them so we can ensure your first appointment feels as safe as possible. Our goal is to ensure that we understand your level of anxiety so we can adjust your treatment plan to keep you comfortable. Some common causes of dental anxiety include:
- Past negative experience
- Teeth sensitivity
- Bleeding during cleanings
- Fear of pain
- A traumatic dental or healthcare experience
- Generalized anxiety related to conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Feeling uncomfortable with being touched in the mouth as it is too intimate
- General trust issues
- Conditions such as agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder related to cleanliness and germs
With an open discussion, we can determine how best to provide dental care to help you maintain optimum oral health. Taking the first step is vital, as deteriorating dental health can further enhance your dental anxiety. As your symptoms such as bleeding gums or tooth pain and sensitivity worsen, your dental anxiety becomes worse, keeping you from receiving the treatment you need to feel well again.
Anxiety at the dentist can be triggered by many different aspects of the dental visit whether it is the smells of antiseptics, the sound of the drill or the sheer anticipation of expected pain. Other issues that might cause dental anxiety can be rooted in the embarrassment of your current oral health. About 20% of patients are afraid of the dentist, or have an actual dental phobia, while as many as 50% are nervous about their dental appointments. So you are not alone! With such a high frequency of dental anxiety, modern clinics ensure these fears are addressed, creating an environment for anxiety-free dentistry.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry provides a completely pain- and anxiety-free option that allows you to receive dental care while in a completely relaxed state, or while asleep. You can discuss the option that will work best for you and that will make you feel the most comfortable. This is an excellent choice if you:
- Have a fear of dentists
- Hate needles or shots
- Have a gag reflex
- Require extensive dental work
- Have had a bad previous experience
- Have very sensitive teeth
- Want to have all your dental work completed in one appointment
It is the best way to access dental care, without worry.
How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?
It all begins with an initial visit with your dentist to discuss your options, which include:
This is 100% pain-free dentistry where the entire team ensures you are completely comfortable. Gentle dental dentistry uses conscious sedation medications so you remain somewhat responsive during your procedure, yet will feel no pain, anxiety, or discomfort. You will be given medication to take the morning of your dental appointment and begin to feel very drowsy by the time of your procedure. Because of this, you will need someone to take you to your appointment and drive you home. At your appointment, you will be in a completely relaxed state allowing us to give you a local anesthetic injection to prevent any pain during your procedure.
Depending on the treatment, the medication will provide pain control for a short time or for up to 12 hours. Because injections are required to reduce pain, we discuss this prior to your appointment in case you experience fear of needles. This allows us to take further steps to ensure you are completely comfortable when the injection is given. You will feel no pain and be completely relaxed, and can even speak to our team during the procedure to let us know if you are experiencing anxiety or feel any discomfort whatsoever. Once complete, you can return home to recover, and the feelings of calm will remain for a few hours.
Sedation Dentistry puts you into a deep sleep, so you have no awareness of your procedure. In this case, we prescribe a sedative to be taken the night before, so you sleep well before your appointment and wake up feeling completely calm and relaxed. You will need someone to drive you to your appointment, where our team will provide further medication to ease you into a deeper state of relaxation and sleep.
We will monitor you throughout the procedure and you will then require a ride home and someone to stay with you until your sedation medication wears off. We will check in with you the next day with a quick phone call to make sure you are feeling well. You will have very little memory of your procedure and will have a healthy smile and improved oral health following your treatment.
If the main reason you are avoiding a visit to the dentist is that you feel embarrassed by your current oral health, we pass no judgement on our patients. Our job is to take care of your teeth and gums. We are thrilled when patients who suffer from dental anxiety take the first step to come in and see us. We will make you as comfortable as possible and do a gentle examination to see what treatments are required. Or we can conduct the entire exam using gentle dental sedation. Our goal will then be to make sure you receive the treatment you require using the anxiety-free option you prefer.