Do you break out in a cold sweat just thinking about a trip to the endodontist, or perhaps even the dentist? Does your heart start to race? You may have dental anxiety.
Dental anxiety is a real thing, and fear of dental work is relatively common. Some experts estimate that more than one-third of all people have some degree of dental anxiety. About 4.6 percent of women and 2.7 percent of men have an extreme fear of dentistry, a condition known as dentophobia.
Some people develop a fear of dentistry after a painful dental problem or otherwise bad experience in the past. Many learn to fear dental work from the media or from family members. Others simply dread having their teeth worked on or worry that the dental work will be uncomfortable.
For those who experience dental anxiety, the fear and stress of just sitting in the dentist chair is very real. In extreme cases, dental anxiety can keep people from getting the dental care they need, so they put up with the pain and misery of unresolved dental problems. The good news is that, because of advances in anesthesia and dental procedures, modern dentistry is now nearly painless. Still, some patients still struggle so they don’t go to their regular visits as often as they should. This can create a slew of dental issues in the future.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep yourself calm during your future visits, even if you have experienced dental anxiety in the past.
Resources to Deal With Dental Anxiety
Tell Your Dental Team About Your Fear and Anxiety
Because dental anxiety is so common, dental professionals are used to helping patients overcome their apprehensions. Mention your nervousness to the person making the appointment, and remind your dental team about your anxiety when you arrive at your appointment.
Share any bad experiences or concerns you may have. The dental team can help you come up with ways to cope with your anxiety. If you have experienced pain even with a local anesthetic in the past, for example, sedation may be recommended so that you are not awake during the procedure. The use of headphones may also be recommended if the sound of dental tools causes you stress.
Ask Questions About the Procedure
Not knowing what will happen can be scary. Find out what the procedure involves, whether you can expect pain, and what you can expect during recovery.
Exposure therapy is highly effective for easing dental anxiety because it allows you to grow comfortable in a dental setting slowly over time. You might enter the office without sitting in the chair during the first appointment, for example, and then sit in the chair for a partial exam at the next visit before working your way through x-rays, cleanings, and full appointments.
Consider Anti-anxiety Medication
Anti-anxiety medications will not cure your dental anxiety. However, they can help you stay calm as you engage in exposure therapy.
Schedule Your Appointments Strategically
Try to schedule your appointment during the practice’s quieter hours. Many clinics are busier in the afternoon than they are in the morning. The hustle and bustle of a busy practice can ramp up stress so ask the person scheduling appointments to recommend a day and time.
Ask a Trusted Friend or Family Member to Accompany You
Talking to a trusted companion can help reduce your stress. Be sure to bring someone who understands your concerns and helps you relax. Having a ride home also gives you an opportunity to choose sedation if available for your appointment.
Bring Noise-canceling Earphones or Earbuds
Wearing headphones or earbuds during dental work can help you avoid anxiety-provoking noises. Listening to your music can also help you stay calm. For best results, create a special playlist of your favorite songs and artists.
Agree on a Signal That You Need to Take a Break
Ask your dental expert to stop for a moment if you raise your hand, for example. You may continue with the procedure after a short rest, or you can come back another day when you feel ready to continue the treatment.
Find the Right Dental Professional
Search for a professional team like Advanced Endodontics that caters to patients with dental anxiety. We are a leading endodontic practice with extensive experience in providing care for patients who feel uneasy in the dentist chair. For more information on how to overcome dental anxiety or to schedule an appointment, contact Advanced Endodontics.