Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Are You Anxious About Visiting the Dentist?

Are you one of the countless individuals who dread stepping into a dental office? If so, you’re not alone. Dental anxiety is a common obstacle that prevents many from receiving essential oral care. However, at North East Dental Arts, we do what we can to ensure patients feel comfortable in our dental office.

To schedule an appointment with our dentist in North East, PA, call us today at (814) 725-4700.

dental anxiety

What Is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety, also known as dental phobia or dental fear, can lead to the avoidance of dental treatment. When some hear the words “dental appointment,” feelings of unease and apprehension often arise. But why do so many of us experience this fear?

Symptoms of dental anxiety can manifest in various ways, such as increased blood pressure, pulse rate, and self-reported anxiety and fear scales. Dental anxiety can have a detrimental impact on our oral health, leading to a vicious cycle of:

  • Dental pain
  • Health issues
  • Heightened anxiety
  • The need for more complex and costly dental treatments

Causes of dental anxiety

Dental anxiety can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Past negative experiences
  • Fear of pain
  • Loss of control
  • Sensory triggers

Symptoms of Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety manifests in various ways, making dental visits challenging for both patients and dentists. Some common symptoms of dental anxiety include:

  • Elevated pulse rate
  • Perspiration
  • Fainting during a dental visit
  • Feelings of panic, dread, or embarrassment
  • Avoidance of dental appointments
  • Inability to cooperate adequately with dental professionals during treatment

Dental Anxiety’s Impact on Oral Health

The consequences of anxiety go beyond mere discomfort; it can negatively impact our overall oral health. When individuals avoid necessary dental care due to anxiety, they risk developing more severe dental issues over time. Research has shown that anxiety can lead to the avoidance of dental care, contributing to a vicious cycle of dental pain, health issues, increased anxiety, and the need for more complex and expensive dental treatments.

Breaking this cycle and giving priority to dental care is imperative. Developing effective coping mechanisms and seeking professional help, can help individuals maintain their oral health and overcome their fears.

Open Communication With Your Dentist

Sharing Fears

Openly discussing your dental fears helps create trust with your dentist. Discussing your concerns and past experiences can help us understand the source of your anxiety and address your fears accordingly. Friends and family members can also provide support by lending an ear to your concerns and offering encouragement.

Establishing Trust

A trusting relationship between a patient and dentist is pivotal for effective treatment. It allows the patient to feel more content and protected, allowing the dentist to provide the highest quality of care. A dentist can foster trust by being forthright with the patient, attentively hearing their concerns, and clearly explaining the treatment plan.

Building trust with your dentist can lead to a more comfortable dental experience, enhanced communication, and a better understanding of the treatment plan.

Customizing Treatment Plans

A tailored treatment plan is crucial for dealing with dental anxiety. In collaboration with our dentist, we can devise a plan that caters to your individual needs and preferences. This may involve discussing alternative treatment options or simply agreeing on a signal to pause the dental procedure if you need a break.

Tailored treatment plans help create a sense of control and comfort during dental procedures, reducing anxiety and fostering a more positive dental experience.

Self-Help Techniques for Managing Dental Phobia

Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness exercises focus on being present in the moment and fostering a non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, enhance concentration, and foster overall well-being.

Examples of mindfulness exercises include body scan meditation, mindful eating, and breathing exercises. By incorporating mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, you can alleviate dental anxiety and promote a more relaxed state of mind during dental appointments.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that tenses and relaxes different muscle groups in the body. This method can reduce stress and anxiety and promote a greater sense of relaxation. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, simply tense and relax the muscles in your feet, then progress up the body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group.

Regular practice of progressive muscle relaxation can help you feel more relaxed during dental appointments and alleviate anxiety.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are concise declarations or mantras that are repeated to oneself to foster positive thinking and self-confidence. They can help replace negative thoughts with positive ones, reducing anxiety during dental appointments. Examples of positive affirmations include “I am strong and capable,” “I am worthy of love and respect,” and “I am open to new opportunities.”

Professional Help for Severe Dental Anxiety

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a psychotherapeutic intervention that has been demonstrated to be highly effective in managing dental anxiety. CBT helps individuals recognize and dispute their unfavorable thoughts and beliefs concerning dental visits and develop more adaptive coping strategies.
  • Anti-anxiety Medications: Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce anxiety and provide immediate relief for those experiencing severe dental anxiety. These medications include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). However, while anti-anxiety medications may offer temporary relief, they shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution. Combining medication with therapy, such as CBT, can lead to more sustainable results in managing dental anxiety.

Creating a Comfortable Dental Environment

Calming Atmosphere

A tranquil atmosphere in the dental office can be achieved through:

  • Gentle lighting
  • Comfortable seating
  • Relaxing music
  • Decor that’s pleasing to the eye
  • The use of aromatherapy

By ensuring that dental offices are comfortable and welcoming spaces, patients can feel more at ease and less anxious during their appointments.

Distraction Techniques

Distraction strategies can be used to minimize stress and anxiety during dental procedures. Music distraction and visual diversion are two techniques that can be used to help take a patient’s mind off of a procedure. Technology options such as background music, television sets, computer games, and 2-D and 3-D video glasses for watching movies can also be utilized.

Support from Friends or Family Members

Having a friend or family member present during dental appointments can help alleviate dental anxiety. Their presence can generate feelings of comfort and ease, divert one from negative thoughts, and provide emotional support. By bringing support to dental appointments, patients can feel more relaxed and less anxious during their treatment.

Alternative Dental Treatments for Patients With Dental Anxiety

Laser Dentistry

Laser dentistry uses lasers to treat various dental conditions. This method is considered less painful and more efficient for certain treatments compared to traditional techniques. By using laser dentistry, patients with dental anxiety can experience reduced discomfort and a more comfortable dental experience.

Air Abrasion

Air abrasion uses alumina powder streams to remove decay and debris from teeth. This method is less invasive than traditional drilling techniques and can decrease the need for anesthesia and shorten the duration of the dental appointment. Patients with dental anxiety can benefit from air abrasion, as it provides a more comfortable and less invasive dental treatment option.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is a pharmacological intervention that can effectively manage severe dental anxiety during dental procedures. Options such as conscious sedation, deep sedation, and general anesthesia can help patients feel more relaxed during treatment.

For individuals experiencing severe dental anxiety, sedation dentistry can provide a more comfortable and less stressful dental experience.

root canal procedure

Frequently Asked Questions

What medication do dentists give for anxiety?

Dentists commonly prescribe benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, or Ativan for anxiety before a dental visit. These drugs decrease anxiety by toning down activity within “fear” receptors in the brain. 

Midazolam is another derivative of the class of drugs used in dental sedation that can help calm nerves and cause memory loss with minimal effect on heart and lung functioning.

How can I manage my dental anxiety during dental appointments?

To manage your dental anxiety during dental appointments, practice self-help techniques such as mindfulness exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and positive affirmations, and maintain open communication with your dentist.

Overcome Your Dental Fears Today!

Overcoming dental anxiety is possible with the right approach and support. Remember, taking charge of your dental health is not only essential for your oral well-being but also for your overall quality of life.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nuhfer, contact our North East dental office today by calling (814) 725-4700. We welcome patients from Erie, Ripley, and Findley Lake, PA.