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Dental Anxiety: Causes, Health Implications and Solutions

If you feel anxious about visiting the dentist, you are not the only one. As per research, around 60% of the population feels a little anxious about dental appointments. What’s even worse, experts report that about 5% to 15% of people suffer from ‘dental phobia.’  

Unfortunately, dental anxiety and phobia can lead to avoidance of dental treatment and even Emergency Dental Services. However, avoiding dental services or treatment can contribute to poor oral health.  

Knowing the causes of your dental anxiety or phobia, you can determine ways to manage your fears better. So, let’s read further to understand what dental anxiety is, its causes, how it could affect your oral health, and how you can overcome it. 

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety can be defined as fear, stress, or anxiety associated with visiting the dentist for preventive care or dental treatments. Some people are nervous or stressed about the dental settings, which could result in delaying or avoiding professional dental care. 

Things like drills, needles, or other equipment at the dental clinic can generally trigger dental anxiety. Your dental anxiety can sometimes elevate into intense fear, causing you to avoid visiting the dentist, which is classified as a dental phobia.  

Professional Northern Beaches Dentist says that mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any previous medical history of head and neck trauma can elevate the risk of an individual experiencing dental anxiety or phobia.  

What are the causes of Dental Anxiety?

Here listed are some causes of dental anxiety:

  • A traumatic dental or other healthcare experience
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Previous trauma to the head and neck
  • Generalised anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia
  • Other traumatic experiences, such as mental or physical abuse
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Trust issues
  • A person is viewing his mouth as a personal area and accessing the mouth by the dentist as an invasion of personal space.
  • Anxiety is associated with other health conditions, like claustrophobia, agoraphobia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

How Can Dental Anxiety or Phobia Affect Your Oral Health? 

Avoiding the dentist because of dental anxiety or phobia can worsen your dental disease, and you might require Emergency Dental Services or more complex dental treatment. When you avoid visiting the dentist, you might experience the following discussed dental issues: 

  • Tooth loss: Professional cleanings are the most effective way to prevent tooth loss. But avoiding visiting the professional dentist because of your anxiety or phobia can cause decay to spread and cavities buildup when left untreated. 
  • Gum disease: Healthy gums are critical to oral health and having an attractive smile. During a professional cleaning, the hygienist cleans between his patient’s teeth and around the gums to prevent plaque buildup and, thus, periodontal disease. But not visiting the dentist regularly can cause gum disease.
  • Health and nutrition issues: Your teeth can affect oral and overall health. With strong, healthy teeth, you can chew nutrient-rich foods and help nurture your body. So, avoiding visiting the professional Northern Beaches Dentist because of your dental anxiety can result in several health and nutrition issues with your body. 

How to Deal with or Overcome Dental Anxiety? 

Do you want to overcome your dental anxiety? If so, there are many ways following which you can learn to overcome your dental anxiety or even phobia. Open discussion with the professional can help him work with you to curate a management plan to help deal with your anxiety.  

The following mentioned are some psychological coping techniques: 

  • Meditation 
  • Deep breathing
  • Distractions like playing your favourite game or listening to the music
  • Guide imagery
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Hypnosis, etc. 

How Can Dentists Help Manage Your Dental Anxiety?

Several types of dental sedation are availble for alleviating dental anxiety. A professional Northern Beaches Dentist can also opt for these medical management techniques to help you manage dental anxiety: 

Relative analgesia (happy gas) 

Relative analgesia, also called laughing or happy gas, is a nitrous oxide that can help relax anxious patients during dental treatment. The dentist will cover your face with a mask and let you breathe a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. It can take effect within minutes and wears off quickly. 

The patient will feel relaxed and awake enough to talk to the dentist and hear what he says. But you won’t remember everything after visiting the clinic.  

Anxiety-relieving medication (oral anxiolytic tablets)

Sometimes, dentists prescribe oral anxiety relieving (anxiolytic) tablets like temazepam to help anxious patients relax. It will help if you take a shot-acting, small, single dose one hour before your dental appointment. 

In addition, it’s better to have someone accompany you to and from the dental clinic as you might not drive safely under the influence of this sedative medication.  

Conscious sedation

The healthcare professional gives conscious sedation through a drip placed into the vein of the patient’s arm or hand. A dental sedation expert or an anaesthetist can provide Intravenous (IV) sedation. 

Under the influence of Intravenous (IV) sedation, you will feel relaxed and might drift off into a light sleep but will be awake enough to respond to verbal prompts.  

General anaesthesia 

A professional dentist and anaesthetist perform the dental procedure involving general anaesthesia in a hospital setting. Patients are fully asleep under the influence of generation anaesthesia. It can be a good option for people with extreme dental anxiety or phobia. 

If you opt for general anaesthesia, you must visit the dentist before and after treatment. Moreover, the anaesthetist will also assess your health condition before giving you general anaesthesia. 

Summing up

Usually, people experiencing dental anxiety or phobia ignore dental care, resulting in poor oral health. And with severe dental issues, they might need Emergency Dental Services and complex dental treatment. 

You can’t live your entire life suffering from dental anxiety, avoiding visiting the dentist, and experiencing poor dental health. 

If you feel anxious about dental settings, discuss it with your dentist. These professionals can recommend techniques and medication to help manage and overcome your dental anxiety or phobia. 


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