Dental anxiety affects an estimated 10-20% of the adult population and is a leading cause of poor oral health and its adverse effects. Although there is a range of reasons why patients of any age can experience anxiety visiting the dentist, a key factor is a previous bad experience in the dentist chair or dental office. For many, this sets off a recurring stress reaction that prevents them from taking care of their oral health with routine dental care. And neglecting your oral health for the long term will most likely lead to not only tooth and gum concerns but an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, systemic disease, and other health issues.
Overcoming dental anxiety can be difficult, but the resulting improvements in the health of your smile and your physical well being can be life-changing. Dr. Hassan offers some helpful tips for anxious patients that may help you to address your dental phobia or fear from a variety of angles. It often begins with a one on one conversation.
- Validate your fears: the first step towards overcoming anything that is a causing stress or anxiety is to acknowledge your feelings and allow that you are afraid. This can enable you to think more clearly about why you are fearful, the next step in the process..
- Identify the triggers: thinking about what sets off that stress reaction can help you to identify the root cause of your anxiety and begin the process of healing. Talking with Dr. Hassan or a member of our team is often helpful when seeking to identify what it is that causes your anxiety or fear.
- Discuss your previous dental experiences: a bad dental experience is a major factor in dental anxiety. Talking about the experience with a compassionate dental professional or other medical personnel can lead to reduced anxiety and an improved understanding of the source of your feelings.
- Discuss your dental procedure: there are many patients with anxiety or fear that are able to overcome it through patient education. Since many phobias are rooted in a fear of the unknown or a feeling of being “out of control”, an in depth and step-by-step explanation of your treatment can often alleviate your stress and allow you to feel more empowered in your oral health care.
- Relaxation techniques: tactics such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization are often helpful and can be used both before and during your visit to change your mindset and feelings.
- Distractions: listening to music and watching t.v. are both great ways to distract yourself from a dental treatment and help to refocus your mind.
The “elephant in the room” that is not on the above list is dental sedation. While we offer all types of dental sedation and are happy to provide the appropriate option for patients, Dr. Hassan will work with anxious patients to try and help them overcome their fears through communication and education. While sedation dentistry can be beneficial for complex or highly invasive treatments such as dental implants, developing the ability to visit the dentist regularly without feeling stressed and anxious is a better outcome for all.
We want our patients to be able to maintain the health and integrity of their natural smile and avoid the need for extensive restorative care through routine preventive care visits. Feeling in control of your feelings when it comes to dental care makes it easier for anxious patients to schedule those bi-annual visits and take the time to care for the health of their teeth and gums.