Dental anxiety is extremely common with the majority of adults experiencing some level of apprehension about going to the dentist. However, for others, dental anxiety is serious enough that it impacts their ability to seek out care. According to Peter Milgrom, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle, for about 20% of people, the anxiety is enough that they only get care when it’s absolutely necessary, meaning they skip important routine check-ups and cleanings. For between 5% and 8% of Americans, their severe fear qualifies as a true dental phobia and they avoid dentists altogether to the detriment of their oral and overall health. To avoid letting the anxiety take over, here are some ways to manage a fear of the dentist:
Find the Right Dental Practice
If you have a fear of going to the dentist, it’s often due to past bad experiences, fear of pain or a sense of a loss of control. Finding a dental practice with experience working with fearful patients, that doesn’t feel overly clinical and that uses technology for fast, painless and effective treatments is really important. It’s much easier to relax when you’re in the care of a dentist you trust and feel comfortable with.
At Naperville Dental Specialists, we’re well versed in treating anxious patients. Our office is designed with spa-like décor and all types of amenities, including an iBar with iPads and charging stations, warm neck wraps and noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll feel at ease as soon as you walk in because it’s nothing like a stereotypical dental office, which helps lower any anxiety you may be feeling.
We also offer consultations so you can come in, tour the office and chat with us before you get started on any type of treatment. When you have all of your questions answered, it can enable you to regain a feeling of control. When you do receive care, your Naperville cosmetic dentist, general dentist or implant dentist will utilize cutting-edge technology to ensure it’s efficient and comfortable. Using advanced diagnostic tools we can also detect issues early when they’re easier and less invasive to treat.
Tell Your Dentist Your Needs
Every patient is unique and a good dentist knows that. What feels like a breeze to one person can be painful to another. Let your dentist know exactly what you’re feeling, if you experience any discomfort or pain or you need to take a break during a procedure. Starting with the first call to a practice, don’t be afraid to tell them you have dental anxiety.
Bring a Friend or Family Member With You
Have a friend or family member who doesn’t have any fear of going to the dentist come with you to your appointment. Even having them just sit in the waiting room can help distract you and give you a sense of calm.
At our practice, we give patients noise-cancelling headphones and an iPad if they’d like. You can also bring your own devices. By drawing your attention away from the sights and sounds of the office, you can zone out and make the anxiety feel more manageable.
Try Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
Prior to your appointment, and during it if you begin to feel overly anxious, practice some tried and true relaxation techniques. Take a cue from yoga and do a counted breath. Inhale through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four and then exhale through your nose to a count of eight. Repeat this several times before you head back to the treatment area. You might also find progressive muscle relaxation helpful for dental anxiety. Tense a group of muscles and then relax them with an exhale before moving on to another muscle group.
Opt for Sedation Dentistry
If, after following our tips, you’re still having trouble overcoming a fear of going to the dentist, you may want to consider sedation dentistry. It will help you relax completely during your treatment and you might even have little or no memory of it. Depending on the case and your needs, we offer both oral conscious sedation and general anesthesia at our practice. Oral conscious sedation involves taking a small dose of oral medication to alleviate anxiety. Depending on the amount, you’ll experience mild to moderate sedation. You’ll be conscious the entire time and you’ll still have all of your reflexes, however, you’ll feel very comfortable and may even fall asleep or forget the details of the procedure. We ensure it’s safe by taking a complete medical history, evaluating the medications you take and monitoring your vital signs throughout your treatment.
For surgical procedures or severe dental anxiety, we can also administer general anesthesia through an IV. We have a highly trained, board-certified anesthesiologist on our team who will administer the medication and monitor you during your treatment. With general anesthesia, you’ll be complexly asleep and won’t have any memory of the experience.
If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to visit a dentist, you may be suffering from dental phobia, technically called dentophobia. In these cases, a psychologist can be extremely helpful. Phobias are typically treated with gradual exposure to the fear. For dental phobia, the psychologist could introduce you to dental stimuli in a controlled environment to help you get to a point where going to the dentist is doable.
For a stress-free dental visit or to learn more about how we can help you overcome your fear of the dentist, schedule an appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists today! We offer outstanding dental care in a way that’s comfortable and compassionate.