Dental Anxiety, Dental Fear and Dental Phobia.
If you feel uncomfortable or even anxious at the thought of visiting the dentist, you’re not alone. Dental fear or anxiety is relatively common, but the good news is that we’re here to listen to you – and to help – and there are many ways in which we can do this for you, including sedation options and creating a calm dental setting.
Dental anxiety is a term used to describe stress, anxiety, or dental fear at the thought of any number of dental settings – and it’s relatively common. Dental anxiety can be triggered by a variety of things, such as needles, the sound of drilling, or perhaps the smell of antiseptic.
Far more uncommon is dental fear, where an individual’s anxiety is so severe and irrational that they cannot, under any circumstances, visit a dental clinic. Serve types of dentist phobia or dental fear of the dentist may require psychological counselling, often along with medication.
Why is going to your Dental Appointment is Important?
Dental and oral health plays a fundamental role in our overall well-being, extending far beyond just having a radiant smile. A healthy mouth is essential for proper digestion, clear communication, and the enjoyment of various foods. Oral health is key to our general health, as it can reflect early signs of systemic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even osteoporosis.
Neglecting oral hygiene due to the fear of going to the dentist can lead to various issues, including gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss, which can impact not only our physical health but also our self-esteem and social interactions. Regular dental care, including at-home brushing, flossing, and routine check-ups, is paramount in preventing these problems and maintaining a vibrant quality of life. Managing your oral health now can save you from discomfort and costly treatments in the future, highlighting the indispensable nature of maintaining a healthy mouth for those radiant smiles. Modern dentistry has come a long way, with new digital technology and dental techniques with are ‘touch-free’, such as Airflow.
What causes Dental Anxiety?
People have dental anxiety for all sorts of reasons. Some suffer from some type of mental illness – such as generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia – and any of these can initiate dental fear and increase the risk of someone experiencing dental anxiety that prevents them from visiting the dental hygienist.
Alternatively, you may not have a mental illness, but perhaps you’ve had a negative experience at the dentist or even a previous non-related trauma that has given you dental anxiety or fear of the dentist. Some people feel that their mouth is a private space that should not be invaded; others have a fear of losing control or having issues with authority or trust.
When you think of what a dental visit entails – sitting back in a vulnerable position, with a person of authority standing over you, working on your teeth when sometimes you are unable to speak, having your personal space invaded – all these things can trigger anxiety in some people. Fortunately, though, at Aria Dental, we are fully aware of these issues and can communicate with you thoroughly and slowly to make you feel far more comfortable.
Symptoms of Dental Anxiety
- Racing heartbeat or palpitations
- Visible signs of stress – such as crying or panicking
- Low blood pressure or fainting
- Withdrawal (expressed as negativity, aggression or humour)
Caused of Dental Anxiety: Why is my Dental Anxiety so bad?
Understanding why you have dental anxiety or the fear and apprehension associated with dental visits can stem from a variety of factors, both psychological and experiential. Here are some common causes of dental anxiety:
Previous Negative Experiences: A past traumatic or painful dental experience can leave a lasting impression, making future visits dental phobia-inducing. These memories can create a cycle of dental fear and anticipation of discomfort.
Fear of Pain: Dental treatment often involves the use of sharp instruments and tools in a sensitive area, which can trigger a fear of pain. A fearful patient who has experienced dental pain in the past might be particularly sensitive to this aspect.
Loss of Control: Being in a vulnerable position, such as lying back in a dental chair, can make individuals feel like they have limited control over the situation. This lack of control can contribute to feelings of dental anxiety.
Fear of Needles: Dental procedures frequently involve a dental injection, which can be anxiety-provoking for those with a fear of needles or injections.
Sensory Overload: The sounds, smells, and sights of a dental clinic and dental instruments can be overwhelming for some people, triggering feelings of anxiety. The unfamiliar sounds of dental equipment can also contribute to a sense of unease.
Embarrassment or Shame: Individuals who feel self-conscious about the state of their teeth or oral hygiene might experience anxiety due to potential embarrassment or shame when undergoing a dental examination, feeling judged by the dentist, dental hygienists and dental nurses present.
Social Factors: Some individuals might feel judged or scrutinized by dental professionals, which can exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
Feeling of Helplessness: Being unable to speak or communicate during a procedure, or being unsure of what’s happening, can lead to a sense of helplessness and increased anxiety.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Individuals with a predisposition to anxiety disorders might find dental visits particularly challenging due to their underlying anxiety.
Cultural or Religious Beliefs: Cultural or religious beliefs that associate dental procedures with pain or discomfort can contribute to dental anxiety.
Fear of Bad News: Some individuals might fear that a dental visit will reveal serious dental issues or require extensive treatments, leading to financial concerns or additional anxiety.
Parental Influence: Childhood experiences, particularly if a parent or caregiver exhibited dental anxiety, can influence an individual’s perception of dental visits.
It’s important to recognise that dental anxiety is a valid concern and can vary in severity. Addressing these underlying causes with open communication, gradual exposure, and relaxation techniques can significantly help individuals manage and overcome dental anxiety, ensuring they receive the necessary oral care without unnecessary stress.
Managing your Dental Anxiety
There are many ways we can help with your dental anxiety. For many individuals, a trip to the dentist can trigger feelings of fear and anxiety. Dental anxiety is a common issue that can stem from various sources, such as past negative experiences, fear of pain, or even the unfamiliar sounds and sights of a dental clinic. However, it’s important not to let dental anxiety or past experiences prevent you from maintaining good oral health. Fortunately, there are several simple techniques that can help you manage and even overcome dental anxiety to make your dental visits more comfortable and more stress-free.
1. Open Communication
One of the most powerful tools to combat dental anxiety is open communication with your dentist. Inform your dentist about your anxiety before the appointment. This will allow them to tailor their approach and take steps to ensure your comfort. Discuss your fears, concerns, and any past negative experiences so that they can address them appropriately. Knowing that your dentist is aware of your anxiety can help build trust and alleviate some of your worries.
2. Choose the Right Dentist
Finding a dentist who understands and empathises with your dental anxiety is crucial. Look for a dentist who specialises in treating anxious patients or who has a reputation for being gentle and patient. You can ask for recommendations from friends, family, or online communities. Reading reviews and visiting the dentist’s website can also give you insights into their approach to patient care.
3. Gradual Exposure
If your dental anxiety is severe, consider scheduling a consultation before your actual dental procedure. This will give you the opportunity to visit the clinic, meet the staff, and familiarise yourself with the environment and the dental chair without the pressure of undergoing a procedure. Gradual exposure can help desensitise you to the dental anxiety-inducing aspects of a dental visit at the dental practice.
4. Use a Relaxation Technique
Implementing relaxation techniques can significantly reduce dental anxiety. A Relaxation Technique such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help calm your nerves before and during your dental appointment. Practice these techniques at home to build your confidence in using them when you are in the dental chair.
5. Distraction techniques
Distracting yourself during the dental procedure can take your mind off the anxiety. Bring headphones and listen to calming music, an audiobook, or a podcast. Some dental clinics even offer in-ceiling TVs, noise-cancelling headphones, or virtual reality headsets to immerse patients in a soothing environment, effectively diverting their attention from the procedure or previous trauma.
Visualising a positive dental experience can help ease dental anxiety for anxious patients. Before your appointment, close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting calmly in the dental chair while the dentist works on your teeth. Visualise everything going smoothly and without discomfort. Positive visualization can help reframe your thoughts and reduce anxiety.
7. Bring a Support Person
Having a trusted friend or family member accompany you to your dental appointment can provide emotional support and reduce your dental anxiety. They can hold your hand, provide encouragement, and act as a calming presence throughout the dental treatment.
8. Sedation Options
For individuals with severe dental anxiety disorder, sedation may be the best option. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedation (tablet), or intravenous (IV) sedation can help you relax and even make you feel drowsy during the procedure. You can discuss these options with our Aria dentists to determine if they are suitable for your situation and particular dental treatment.
Dental Phobia: Sedation Options for Your Dental Anxiety
Free Oral Sedation for Minor Treatments at Aria Dental
At Aria Dental, we offer a no-cost, free sedation option for those who feel nervous about any dental appointment or procedure, even for a simple dental treatment like fillings. The Oral anti-anxiolytic medication helps to relieve dental anxiety about your dental treatment and doesn’t require any intravenous needles or tubes. You’ll be given a small tablet which will make you feel drowsy and has a similar effect to amnesia, so you may not remember much about the procedure. Once you’re comfortable in the dental chair and completely relaxed, our experienced dental team will only then start to complete your dental appointment.
Sedation & Sleep Dentistry for Dental Treatment
Patients requiring dental surgery can choose either oral anti-anxiolytic medication or IV (intravenous) sedation. If you have a significant dental phobia or are on several medications for anxiety, IV sedation may be the better option for you.
IV sedation is also known as ‘sleep dentistry‘, ‘twilight sedation’ or ‘conscious sedation.’ The sedative drug is delivered through an injection and is administered by an expert, medically-trained doctor. IV conscious sedation is an effective technique for managing moderate to severe dental anxiety.
While not as readily available in most dental clinics, IV sedation is a valuable tool for ensuring complete relaxation during a procedure that you may not ordinarily have done due to extreme fear.
During the procedure, your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure and breathing are closely monitored. Although you may feel as though you are sleeping, you are still conscious and able to follow instructions. However, you are unlikely to remember anything about the procedure.
Which option is best for Dental Fear?
Odontophobia, or dentophobia, is an intense and irrational fear of dental treatment or dentists. It often stems from past negative experiences, fear of pain, or loss of control. This fear can lead to avoidance of necessary dental care, impacting oral health. From mild discomfort to severe panic, odontophobia’s severity varies. Open communication, relaxation techniques, and gradual exposure can help manage this fear. Seeking support from mental health professionals or specialized dentists is crucial for overcoming odontophobia and maintaining oral health.
Here’s a summary of your options, depending on your treatment and level of fear or anxiety:
- No sedation or only local anaesthetic: suitable for those with no dental phobia or dental anxiety undergoing minor, straight-forward surgery
- Oral sedation: ideal if you have dental anxiety of any type and are undergoing most types of dental treatment.
- IV sedation: for individuals with a serious dental phobia (not just anxiety, but true dental fear) undergoing any dental treatment or for individuals suffering any level of anxiety that is undergoing major surgery, such as removing a full arch of teeth.
Other Simple Dental Anxiety Management Techniques
If you have a relatively minor dental phobia, for nervous patients or would prefer not to take medication, the following exercises and coping skills may help:
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation techniques
- Distraction – watching a video or pictures on a screen
If you have severe fear or you suffer an irrational fear, a referral for psychological treatment may be time well spent. In particular, after reviewing your medical history, cognitive behavioural therapy can be excellent for changing dental fear, mental disorders, anxious patient thoughts and negative reactions to dental treatment.
Negative effects on your Oral Health
Skipping the dentist because you find the idea unsettling or have dental fear is never a good idea. Maintaining good oral health is highly important not just for the sake of your teeth but your overall physical health. Many studies have shown the link between poor dental health and dental disease to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, some cancers and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
Further, if you neglect regular preventative dental treatment or basic dental work such as filling, problems could develop that may become far worse, more expensive – and ironically – require a lot longer in the dentist’s chair.
Dental anxiety or anxious patients is a common challenge, but it should not prevent you from seeking the dental care you need. By implementing these simple techniques, you can manage your fear of the dentist and have a more comfortable and stress-free dental experience. Remember that overcoming dental anxiety is a gradual process, and it’s okay to take small steps toward improvement. With the right strategies and the support of a caring dental team, you can conquer your dental anxiety and maintain your oral health with confidence.
Dental Fear. We can help.
At Aria Dental, we take all levels of severe anxiety and dental phobia seriously and are here to support you and listen to you. We will help manage patients to make your dental appointments or dental treatment at our 5 star dental practice, built to induce relaxation and reduce negative feelings, to be stress-free and comfortable.
So, if you have any concerns about dental fear or past traumas, please talk to us about them. Together, we can work out the best course of action for your dental treatment so you can remain calm and relaxed while having your treatments performed to improve your dental health. We can make your dental appointments and your dental environment safe and caring so you can avoid those stressful dental treatments.
Going to the dentist should be stress-free, and we want to help you overcome your fear of the dentist or dental procedures. Please call our Patient Services team on 9226 2135 to discuss how Aria Dental can accommodate your needs and create a positive dental environment in a calm dental setting for care for your health problems.