Coping With Dental Anxiety

When you sit in the dentist’s chair, how do you feel?

Some patients find dental visits to be incredibly relaxing. It’s a time when they can sit back, relax, and take a break from school or work.

But for others, going to the dentist causes fear, anxiety, and stress.

Anxiety is something every one of us experiences at one point or another, whether it’s before a big exam or a job interview. For some, anxiety is a persistent emotion tied to certain activities, such as socializing or being in crowded places.

Dental anxiety is a relatively common condition. In Canada, approximately 4.4%-16.4% of patients experience dental anxiety. 

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be a source of dread and fear. In this post, we’re going to explain what a dental phobia is, along with the most effective coping mechanisms. 

Dental Anxiety Causes & Symptoms

Many patients have no problem visiting the dentist, while others experience severe anxiety. Why is that?

Dental anxiety can be caused by negative previous experiences. If you had an unpleasant or painful dental treatment as a child, that memory could manifest as anxiety in adulthood. 

The fear can also be linked to a certain part of the appointment. For example, fear of needles, fear of the local anaesthetics not working, or fear of your personal space being infringed upon. The sound of the drill can also trigger anxiety. 

If a patient is already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, they may be more likely to develop dental anxiety.

Before dental appointments, patients with anxiety may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic or anxiety attack
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping before the appointment

If you suspect that you may have dental anxiety, talk to your doctor or dentist.

The Dangers of Dental Anxiety

When something causes us fear, we naturally avoid it. But in the case of dental anxiety, this can be hazardous to your health.

Without preventative care, a patient is at greater risk of developing cavities or gum disease. 

This creates a negative cycle: Patients avoid the dentist due to their anxiety. Without treatment, their dental issues worsen. The need for dental care and pain relief increases—but so does the anxiety.

This shows why it’s so important for patients to learn coping strategies for dental anxiety. Otherwise, they risk jeopardizing their oral health. 

What can you do if anxiety is getting in the way of your healthy smile? Below, we’ve listed effective treatments and coping strategies for dental anxiety:

Ways To Manage Dental Anxiety

For those with severe dental anxiety, sedatives can be an effective way to manage your stress while you’re at the dental office. They can help you keep stress at bay so you can receive the treatment you need.

At Dental House, we offer oral sedation and nitrous oxide sedation. The three most common types of sedatives include: 

Oral sedatives

Anxiety relieving medication can be taken an hour before your appointment. With oral sedatives, you’ll be conscious during the procedure, but you’ll experience sleepiness, relaxation, and less awareness of your surroundings. Effects last for several hours, so you’ll need to arrange for someone else to drive you home.

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

You’ve probably seen this sedative depicted in cartoons before. But contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always induce laughter. The most common symptoms are calmness, relaxation, and euphoria. 

Nitrous oxide is a form of conscious sedation. It’s administered through a mask, where patients breathe in the gas. Laughing gas can reduce anxiety and help you completely relax.

After your treatment is complete, your dentist will provide you with oxygen to get rid of any lingering effects. You’ll be safe to drive yourself home once you’re all done.

IV sedation

If you prefer to not be aware or would like to sleep during dental appointments, this may be a helpful sedative for you. IV sedation is suitable for invasive or long dental procedures, such as wisdom tooth removal. It’s administered through the bloodstream for fast-acting effects. Once you wake up, you may not even remember your appointment.

The right sedative for you will depend on the severity of your anxiety, your age, and any health problems you may have. If you have any health conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor before trying a sedative. 

Dental Anxiety Tips for Your Next Appointment

Do you have an upcoming dental visit? If so, you may be dreading it more with each passing day. Don’t worry: These quick tips can help you in a pinch. 

  • Bring a stress ball. When you’re experiencing pain or stress, squeezing a ball can be a great help. Try it!
  • Wear headphones. Do certain sounds trigger your anxiety? Block them out by bringing headphones and listening to one of your favourite albums.
  • Deep breathing exercises. Does your anxiety stem from a loss of control? If so, remember there’s one thing you can always control: Your breathing. Instead of focusing on your treatment, pay attention to your breath; notice how your stomach rises and falls with each one.
  • Visualization. If you’d rather be anywhere than in a dental or hospital setting, why not imagine that you’re somewhere else? Close your eyes, put in ear plugs, and use your imagination to escape. You can picture yourself on a sunny beach or at home in your cozy bed.
  • Talk to your dentist. Of all these tips, here’s the most important one: Let your dentist know about your anxiety. At Dental House, we’ll be happy to accommodate you. You can establish hand signals for your appointment; for example, whenever you raise your hand, it signals that you need a break.

Book Your Next Dental Appointment Today

Dental House is committed to making your next visit as comfortable as possible. At our dental clinic, we do everything we can to ensure you feel safe, relaxed, and in control at all times. 

Coping with dental anxiety is an ongoing challenge, but it’s made easier by our team of qualified, friendly dentists. We can figure out if oral sedation or nitrous oxide sedation is right for you.

Together, we can make your next visit a positive experience. Call Dental House today!