What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a fearful response to dentists and dental office visits. About 75% of Americans experience some form of dental anxiety, most often mild apprehension. However, for a smaller fraction, dental anxiety is much more serious. Serious dental anxiety occurs in up to 10% of the population, and can lead to behavior such as difficulty making appointments, panic attacks, or extreme anxiety leading up to and during a dental appointment.
Why is dental anxiety problematic?
Severe dental anxiety can be an unpleasant experience. However, even worse consequences can occur; often, a person with severe dental anxiety may avoid dentists entirely. Their teeth will decay without regular dental cleaning, which can result in pain, embarrassment, ugly teeth, bad breath, and most critically can lead to poorer general health.
What are common symptoms of Severe Dental Anxiety?
General panic symptoms are typically seen with Severe Dental Anxiety, including difficulty breathing, sweaty palms, racing heart, lightheadedness and feeling queasy. Other symptoms include a hard time following through with dental appointments, obsessing about an upcoming appointment, panicking while waiting for an appointment, or the need to escape from within a dentist’s chair during treatment.
How can Dental Anxiety be Managed?
Although there are a variety of ways to deal with dental anxiety, the sufferer must be able to admit their problem and work towards a solution. One of the easiest and most effective ways is to learn relaxation techniques, such as breathing or meditation, which can help relax them during an appointment. A similar option that we make available to our Weston Area dental patients is dental hypnosis, which is very effective in relaxing a willing patient.
Other options include desensitization therapy or calming medicines. Desensitization can be used to gradually get a patient familiar with dental techniques. A patient may first sit in a chair for one visit, until they no longer feel nervous. Their next visit may include a simple cleaning, working up until the patient is more comfortable with longer, more involved procedures. For severe cases, medication can be used, ranging from calming pills to general anesthesia. However, our Weston dental office has been so successful in the use of dental hypnosis, that we have treated patients who otherwise would have required general anesthesia.
Our advice to our Weston area dental patients is to talk to us about dental anxiety, as there are a variety of things they we can do to help. Just knowing that there is a problem can allow our dental staff to address phobias, such as by telling our patients what we are doing in each step, or avoiding a particular procedure if at all possible. We can make arrangements for you to signal us to pause during treatment while you calm down and relax. We also offer other relaxation aids such as TVs and music and a beautiful salt-water living reef aquarium in our state-of-the-art Weston dental location.