Becky Larson RDH
I once had an elementary school teacher who would scream if she heard the word “dentist.” About 75% of the population has some form of dental anxiety while about 5-10% of the population has an actual dental phobia. There are various degrees of dental anxiety/phobia, some even requiring psychiatric help. Those who experience this fear of going to the dentist will often avoid dental appointments until they are in extreme pain. I think we all realize that sometimes going to the dentist is just not fun. However, some signs that you may suffer from legitimate dental anxiety/phobia include trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment, nervous feelings that increase in the dental office waiting room, crying or feeling physically sick when thinking about the dentist, and/or panic attacks or difficulty breathing when at or thinking of the dentist.
So what causes dental anxiety or dental phobia? Some common reasons for experiencing dental anxiety are fear of pain, fear of injections, fear that injections won’t work, fear of anesthetic side effects, fear of not being in control, embarrassment, and loss of personal space. The key to dealing with any of these fears is to talk to your dentist. If your dentist is aware of your fear(s) he/she can suggest ways to make you feel more comfortable when in the dental chair. Some helpful strategies include:
- Having your dentist explain procedures in detail prior to and during treatment
- Topical anesthetic and/or closing your eyes during injections
- Establish a “stop” signal when you want your dentist to stop or give you a break
- Nitrous oxide prior to treatment
- Prescription pre-medication (such as Halcion)
- Sedation/general anesthesia
At our offices we do offer intravenous sedation techniques for dental treatment. With these techniques, sedation drugs are administered through an IV in the patient’s arm or hand. While the patient is sedated, they will still be still be conscious and able to respond to dental staff. They will also be able to breathe on their own.
Recognizing dental fears and finding ways to cope with them is extremely important to your dental health. Regular check-ups and cleanings can help prevent recurrent decay, which in turn can reduce the amount of time and money you spend at the dentist.
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