Ways to Reduce Dental Anxiety
By: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, David Anderson
If you have anxiety about going to the dentist, you are not alone. More than 80% of Americans have dental anxiety or dental phobia (odontophobia). When this fear and anxiety leads to delaying or canceling treatment, it can, unfortunately, spiral into a vicious cycle of dental pain, health problems, worse anxiety, and more complex and costly dental procedures.
At Dental Associates, we want to help all our patients, no matter their level of anxiety, feel comfortable at the dentist and leave with a healthy smile.
Common Dental Anxiety Symptoms
Having anxiety can cause various symptoms depending on the person and the level of fear or anxiety. Some of these common symptoms include:
- Heart palpitations
- Panic attacks
- High blood pressure which can then drop and cause fainting
- High heart rate
- Agitation and aggressive behavior
- Extreme sweating
While we cannot completely cure your dental anxiety, there are many tools we can use to help make your experience a positive one.
Ways to Reduce Dental Anxiety
These are only a few of the many ways we can help you become more comfortable while at your dental appointment.
- Keep up with your daily dental care. By simply brushing your teeth and flossing daily, you can help prevent any complex dental procedures, which means fewer visits to the dentist.
- Communication is key! By communicating with your doctor ahead of time about your concerns, we can work together to make your appointment more pleasant. If anything is uncomfortable, do not hesitate to let your dentist know (you can raise your hand to let them know you need a break). We will stop and take as much time as you need before continuing.
- Ask questions. Sometimes what makes a dental procedure scary is our lack of understanding of what happens. Ask your dentist any questions about what will happen during your visit, what you can expect during and after the procedure, and voice any concerns you may have. We will do our best to explain everything to make you more comfortable.
- Focused breathing and meditation can help reduce your heart rate and anxiety. These simple tools can help you relax during your appointment.
- If the sounds of the drills and other dental tools are anxiety-inducing, bring your headphones and listen to your favorite music, podcasts, or audiobooks.
- Keep yourself busy with a stress ball or other fidget device. These tools can help keep your hands busy and distract you from what the dentist is doing.
- If weighted blankets help alleviate your anxiety, you can ask to have the x-ray shield vest to be placed on you during the procedure to mimic the effects of a weighted blanket.
- Bring a family member or friend. Sometimes, having someone you trust there in the exam room can help you feel more at ease. When you schedule your appointment, ask if it is okay to bring a family member or friend.
- If you are still experiencing extreme dental anxiety or phobia, your dentist may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication to take before your appointment to help. Some doctors can also do conscious sedation like nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Talk to your dentist to see if this could be an option for you.
- Know that no matter how long it has been since your last dental visit, we are glad you have trusted us to help care for you. We will not judge you or think any differently. We are just glad to be able to help you eliminate any problems and achieve your dream smile.
Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary and anxiety-inducing. Our doctors at Dental Associates want to help you become pain-free and happy with your smile. Schedule an appointment today if you have questions or wish to speak to someone about dental anxiety treatment options.
More information about oral health from Dental Associates