What Is Dental Anxiety?

Posted on: March 24, 2018

Dental AnxietyDental anxiety is a medical term that describes stress, nervousness and fear of dental treatment.  It is not only kids who have dental anxiety. Plenty of adults are also fearful or anxious about visiting the dentist.  Some patients are afraid of drills. Others are afraid of needles that administer anesthesia to numb the mouth.

Certain patients are generally anxious about dental settings in general.  A few patients have dental anxiety rooted in bad experiences with unqualified dentists.  Regardless of why you have dental anxiety, it is important to recognize it and overcome it to ensure continued oral health.

Why Dental Anxiety Should be Proactively Addressed

More people suffer from dental anxiety than the average person assumes.  In fact, some people are so nervous about visiting the dentist they avoid scheduling an appointment.  This is the worst possible outcome of dental anxiety as DIY (do it yourself) dental care is a recipe for disaster.

An individual who refuses to visit the dentist due to anxiety or fear will end up with all sorts of dental health problems.  The bottom line is the dentist’s specialized tools, treatments and procedures are necessary to perform a comprehensive cleaning of your mouth.  Do not assume you can perform the same level of cleaning on your own.

If you suspect you have dental anxiety, let your dentist know and he or she will accommodate your needs and desires as best as possible.  Even discussing this anxiety with a dental hygienist or another person has the potential to alleviate your concern and pinpoint methods to alleviate fear/nervousness.

Signs of Dental Anxiety

Those who have dental anxiety might experience persistent sweating when at the dentist’s office.  Some sweat when thinking about going to the dentist’s office for something as simple as an exam and cleaning.  If you have a racing heart, low blood pressure or feel light-headed when at the dentist’s office or thinking of such a visit, you should definitely have your dental anxiety addressed.

Even the use of humor to make light of potential dental treatments can qualify as a sign of dental anxiety.  If you notice these signs in a loved one or yourself, do not assume it is perfectly normal. This anxiety has the potential to lead to extensive oral health problems down the line that threaten your well-being or that of your loved one.

The Best Approach to Managing Dental Anxiety

Honest is the best way to handle dental anxiety.  Be honest with yourself as well as your dentist about your nervousness and/or fear.  Once the dentist and dental hygienists are aware of your anxiety, they will adjust accordingly to keep you as comfortable as possible.  The dentist will also help identify the triggers of anxiety so a customized treatment plan can be designed specifically for you.

Some patients have found relief for dental anxiety by discussing it with a psychologist.  Even certain therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy can prove helpful. Others have enjoyed success with meditation, deep breathing, hypnosis, guided imagery, listening to music and/or muscle relaxation techniques.

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