Dental anxiety can be a real and dangerous problem. Around 15% of the U.S. population suffers from dental anxiety, and the idea of visiting the dentist sends them into a state of desperation, panic, and fear. The symptoms of dental anxiety range widely between patients and can encompass nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, sweats, shaking, hyperventilation, dizziness, and confusion. Luckily, if you’re one of the many people suffering from dental anxiety, you don’t have to fear anymore. There are now a number of ways you can go about soothing your anxiety.
Why is it so important to treat dental anxiety?
The main concern for patients with dental anxiety and phobia is the lack of care that they receive as a result of putting off vital check-ups and necessary treatment. They have a far greater risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss, which can impact their appearance and their confidence, not to mention the functionality of their teeth. Poor oral health has also been found to have links to a range of serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease. This puts dental anxiety sufferers at risk of poor general health and a lower life expectancy rate.
Many dentists understand the prevalence of dental anxiety and are keen to work with their patients to alleviate their worries, so they can enjoy optimal oral health. Sedation is becoming an increasingly common option for even the most routine dental appointment and works by relaxing the patient enough so that the necessary examinations and/or treatment can be carried out.
There are different levels of sedation available. We will make a recommendation as to which level of sedation is suitable for you, depending on your level of anxiety and the type of dental work that is to be carried out. The deepest level of sedation is a general anesthetic, but this is usually only offered when an extremely nervous patient requires extensive, invasive treatment such as dental implants.
If you are interested in finding out more about sedation dentistry, contact your dentist’s office and see if it is something that can be offered.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT helps you to gain control over negative thoughts and emotions that are associated with the thing that you fear – in this case, visiting the dentist. During CBT, you learn to identify the behaviors that you typically exhibit when confronted with the thing that you fear, such as hyperventilation or nausea, and changing them into something positive instead.
If you believe that CBT may be a beneficial treatment for your dental anxiety, you can either look for a professional therapist, or complete self-guided CBT using resources found in libraries or online.
Some patients have reported finding that relaxation and meditation methods have helped them to deal with their dental anxiety. Practicing these techniques regularly can help to regulate breathing, lower your pulse rate and relax your muscles. It can also be taught alongside a therapy known as systemic desensitization, during which you talk about your fears, ordering them from least to most troubling, and then gradually exposing yourself to elements of them to help overcome them.