It’s finally time for your biannual dentist appointment, but as the day draws closer, you just find yourself getting more and more anxious! If this sounds like something you can relate to, don’t worry, dental anxiety is understandable and far more common than most people think. However, visiting the dentist is one of the best things you can do for your teeth and it’s an important part of your oral health care routine. If you struggle with dental anxiety, here are a few tips to help you feel more relaxed about seeking dental care.

How Common Is Dental Anxiety?

Surprisingly common! Some studies suggest that dental phobia affects as much as 36% of the population. It’s common enough to have its own medical recognition, so don’t be embarrassed if you share a fear of the dentist with millions of other people.

What Are the Symptoms of Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety can affect people of all ages and present itself in many different ways. Some of the most severe symptoms include:

  • heart palpitations
  • panic attacks
  • low blood pressure
  • aggressive behavior
  • extreme sweating
  • crying
  • feeling faint

However, sometimes dental phobia might appear in more subtle ways. Maybe you find yourself always coming up with reasons to reschedule your appointment, or you insist that you take good enough care of your teeth at home and don’t need to see a dentist. Recognizing these symptoms is a great first step in treating your dental anxiety.

How Does Dental Phobia Affect Your Oral Health?

Seeing your dentist is a crucial part of your oral healthcare routine. Receiving a professional cleaning at least twice a year removes plaque and tartar from places that are difficult to clean by yourself, stopping these areas from decaying or becoming damaged. Your dentist is also specially trained to diagnose cavities and gum disease before they worsen and require more extensive treatment.

What Are Some Ways to Treat Dental Anxiety?

If you are scared of dentists but still need treatment, there are several steps you can take in the months between and directly before your appointment to help alleviate your anxiety. Some of these include:

Talking To Your Dentist

Don’t be worried or embarrassed to communicate your fears directly to your dentist. Your dentist has more than likely treated someone with dental anxiety in the past, and they should be more than willing to discuss your fears and ways that they can help you feel more comfortable in the examination chair. Sometimes it can be helpful to simply have the procedures explained to you ahead of time so you have a better idea of what to expect.

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises have been proven to be simple, effective methods for controlling a racing heartbeat or thoughts, and can help you reduce stress during dental appointments.

Meditation and Muscle Relaxation

Meditation is a helpful tool when it comes to dental anxiety management, and it can be practiced anywhere—including the examination chair! Just close your eyes and allow your slow, steady breathing to completely relax your muscles. Interrupting the stress feedback loop in this way can help treat your anxiety by treating its symptoms—namely shallow breathing, tense muscles, and racing thoughts.

Distraction

A simple distraction can go a long way in helping take your mind off the stress of your appointment. Consult with your dentists as to whether you can bring a game, book, or watch TV during your appointment.

Bring a Friend

It’s always nice to have some personal support in stressful situations. If your dentist allows someone else in the exam room, see if you can bring a friend to sit with you. Their mere presence can help calm you down and remind you that there’s someone there concerned with your well-being—besides your dentist and hygienist of course!

Analgesia

This is a type of medication used to relieve pain. You can find these drugs over-the-counter, but they’re also used during dental appointments to provide pain relief and reduce moderate anxiety.

Dentists typically use nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, which is a colorless and odorless gas you breathe in before or during your procedure. Check with your dental insurance provider to see if they offer coverage for nitrous oxide. Some plans may not cover this benefit.

Medication

For mild anxiety, over-the-counter medication can help you calm down. Certain insurance plans also cover the use of nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” which your dentist can provide as a mild anesthetic.

For more moderate cases, your dentist might encourage you to obtain a prescription for clinically formulated anti-anxiety medication, which you can take in the hours preceding your appointment.

Sedation and anesthesia

For extreme anxiety, your dentist may be able to offer you anesthetics in the form of a pill you take before your procedure which will keep you conscious during your checkup but in a very relaxed state.

Alternatively, patients can elect to have general anesthesia, in which they will be completely unconscious during their appointment. Keep in mind, that this is considered a medical procedure and may not be available at every clinic as it takes a trained physician to supply general anesthesia.

Seeing your dentist is necessary for a complete oral care routine, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you struggle with dental anxiety. If you are looking for family dentistry that’s sympathetic to a dental phobia, call or visit Spanish Springs Family Dentistry! From our patients’ first visit, we want them to feel comfortable and welcome when coming into our clinic. If you need any more information about the kinds of services we offer or how much we love our patients, read our reviews or call and speak with one of our staff directly.