Dental anxiety is the occurrence of extreme stress levels, worry, and even physical distress caused by the anticipation of attending a dental appointment. This stress can be brought on due to painful experiences at the dentist in the past. Or, it can even be apprehension about an upcoming dental procedure.
However, as different forms of sedation or “sleep dentistry” become more available around the country, other options can help you relieve your dental anxiety.
Tooth decay is one of the most common problems people face when it comes to their dental health and well-being. In a Canadian survey, 9.8% of adults stated they were somewhat afraid of dental treatments, while 5.5% said they had a high level of fear. Of these individuals who reported having a high level of anxiety, 49.2% have avoided dental appointments due to personal fears.
Furthermore, in children and adolescents, 23.9% reported dental anxiety. What stands out is that if provided with sedation at a reasonable rate, about 50% of those surveyed would gladly use some form of sedation for dental procedures.
Tip 1: Discuss the Procedure With Your Dentist
Dentists are highly empathetic and are taught various ways to help ease your concern. Many people’s fears stem from the unknown, and if you don’t know what to expect during your dental procedure, it is perfectly natural to feel uncertain. Ask the dentist to describe the process to you; they may even have unique techniques to make you feel more comfortable.
Tip 2: The Five Senses Game
For people struggling with dental anxiety, a simple way to calm down is to play a mental game with yourself. Use your five senses to find five things you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
Though tasting something is probably not advisable in the dental office, you can use your other senses and methodically find things that will distract you. You can repeat this process and try to find five blue items and continue from there.
Tip 3: Bring On the Fire
There is an imagery trick you can do to help clear the clutter and anxiety from your mind. You imagine a fire. It could be a fireplace or a campfire, and if any unwanted fear or thought comes to your mind, you throw it into the fire and imagine burning it up. Doing this will lead you into a semi-meditative state that should make you feel more relaxed.
Tip 4: Meditation and Breathing
Though it may seem like meditating would be challenging to do during a dental procedure, you may be surprised. Starting with your toes, flex them, and then let go. Move to your ankles, and focus on tensing and relaxing every body part from your feet to your scalp. Focus on breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of four, and your body will naturally begin to feel relaxed as you do so.
Tip 5: Watch TV During the Procedure
Most dental offices now come with TVs built into the ceiling so you can watch something to distract yourself while they work. They even provide headphones and will pick a channel you like (though we all know daytime TV can be tedious). Take advantage of this option and lose yourself in the show.
Tip 6: Listen to Music
Some dentists help patients deal with dental anxiety by allowing them to play music with their phones and a pair of earbuds. You can rock out to your favourite playlist and ignore the buzzing of the drill and other dental tools. Whatever you do, though, don’t start headbanging.
Tip 7: Use the Buddy System
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is bring a friend. They can help distract you while your dentist works on you. Have them keep you engaged through intriguing tales and reminiscing about past events.
The buddy system has been an effective safety measure for a long time, and it can be beneficial knowing they’re there for additional support while you go through the dental procedure.
Tip 8: Go for the Gas
Dentists often use nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) as a form of analgesia to relieve pain and reduce dental anxiety. You breathe it in before and during your dental procedure. You’re conscious throughout the process, but sedated.
The bonus is that you can even drive yourself to and from your appointment because you will be given oxygen to flush the gas from your lungs once the procedure is finished. This choice is best for people with low levels of dental anxiety.
Tip 9: Request an Oral Sedative
There are several anxiety-relieving medications that can be prescribed to help reduce dental anxiety prior to a procedure. The dentist will prescribe the medicine to pick up at the pharmacy before your appointment. You take the medication an hour or more before your dental appointment. You won’t be asleep and will feel very relaxed. You will also be able to interact with the dentist, as you’ll be conscious throughout the session.
This option is best for people who have moderate to severe fear of attending a dental appointment.
Tip 10: Go Under General Anesthesia
Sleep dentistry is the last option for those suffering from severe dental anxiety. You will remain asleep throughout the entire process. You will be placed under general anesthesia by a professional anesthesiologist or a dentist that has undergone extensive training.
They will administer it intravenously, and you will be monitored consistently. When you wake up, you will have no recollection of the procedure and can carry on with your day.
Whether you are suffering from simple dental procedure jitters or an overwhelming fear of the dentist, we can make the entire process a smooth experience. Use these helpful tips, and discuss with your dentistry team how you feel so that they can provide the best options for your situation, like sleep dentistry.
For more information about sleep dentistry and dental anxiety, contact Downtown Sleep Dentistry & Oral Surgery at 289-272-8463 or book an appointment here. You’ll be smiling with those pearly whites in no time.