Solutions for Dental Anxiety
Viable Solutions for Your Dental Anxiety
Many people these days experience dental anxiety. It’s a lot more common than you might think. A recent study found that a staggering 85% of people residing in Australia are still at least a little nervous about going to the dentist.
The Consequences of Dental Anxiety
Unfortunately, dental anxiety can have quite a few consequences, none of which are particularly desirable.
You May Avoid Going to Appointments
If you’re feeling extreme fear about seeing your dentist, you’re very likely to avoid showing up to your appointments. You may continue to postpone your checkups. While this is understandable, it can be a concern for dentists because we want to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene, and we often need to keep tabs on our clients consistently to ensure that they are following the proper procedures.
It Can Sometimes Make It More Challenging for Dentists If Their Patients are Experiencing Extreme Dental Anxiety
Unfortunately, dentists can get anxious too, and our job is often very stressful every day: We do meticulous work, and we don’t want to mess anything up! When our patients are anxious, it can sometimes be more challenging for dentists to perform the procedures appropriately, mainly if the nervousness results in sudden movements while using our tools on your teeth. Fortunately, we do offer pharmacological solutions, including the following:
- Inhalation sedation using a combination of happy gas and oxygen
- Oral sedation (Valium, Xanax, etc.)
- Intravenous (IV) sedation
Thankfully, most dentists can help their clients relax with breathing techniques and other psychological strategies that benefit both parties. Still, it’s likely reassuring to know that the above treatments are also available if you need them.
Anxious Patients Can Increase Stress for Their Dentists
Dentists are human too, and when we sense your anxiety, we often experience a rush of adrenaline ourselves: Our priority is to make sure you leave feeling happy, satisfied, and healthy! Dentists might get scared of making a mistake, resulting in losing a client: The pressure can sometimes feel extreme!
Dental Anxiety Can Lead to Poor Oral Hygiene
When someone is hesitant to visit their dentist, the unfortunate truth is that this can result in poor oral hygiene: If you rarely see your provider, it could become challenging to understand the minute details of effective flossing and brushing methods. You may not know if you have a cavity, even if you’re experiencing side effects from it. It’s always best to see a dentist if you’re concerned, even if you’re nervous about doing so. If you feel scared to see your provider, don’t be afraid to let them know: They’ll likely be able to provide you with viable strategies to enhance your visit and decrease your anxiety!
The sad truth is that dental fears can lead to a wide variety of issues for patients and dentists alike, resulting in a vicious cycle of nervousness, poor oral hygiene, and increased discomfort whenever a client does visit their provider. Fortunately, the dental community is well aware of this issue. We have performed extensive research on how we can help patients experiencing such intense anxiety whenever they even think about seeing their dentist.
5 Reasons Patients May be Scared
We’ve found that many patients are scared for a multitude of reasons. All of these are highly valid, and, along with the entire dental community, we have worked hard to provide our clients with viable solutions.
Perhaps you had an awful experience with a dentist in the past. If that’s the case, it’s perfectly normal to struggle whenever you have to get your teeth checked.
Specific Aspects of a Dental Procedure
Some people hate blood, needles, sharp pointy objects, or other tools that could be used for a specific procedure. We have some clients who don’t enjoy feeling so powerless when they visit the dentist: You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re in a reclined chair allowing someone else to check your teeth and gums, after all. This thinking is understandable, but we might be able to help. If you’re nervous about a specific part of the treatment, let your dentist know: There’s no guarantee, but they may be able to modify certain aspects of the procedure.
Symptoms of Other Conditions
Many of our clients who have generalized anxiety have nervousness when they visit our clinic, which makes sense. Some who experience depression may struggle to show up for appointments or continue to delay them for a while. We need to know about any conditions you may be suffering from; that way, we can understand how to serve your needs best. Your diagnosis is not your fault, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Seeing a dentist is an oddly intimate experience in which the patient is quite vulnerable, and some would even say powerless. If you have been sexually abused in the past, it’s completely understandable that you would be terrified of being put in such a position. You don’t have to share your story unless you’re comfortable doing so, but you could let your dentist know that you feel scared of being in such a powerless position. If they know this, they can better understand how to serve your needs.
We want you to feel as safe as possible whenever you visit our clinic, and we’re deeply sorry about what happened to you. It wasn’t your fault.
Concerns About Pain
Many clients may be concerned about pain, especially if they have swollen gums. This makes sense, and we understand. You may want to check in with your dentist about what they can offer to relieve any discomfort you are afraid you might experience. There are various options at your disposal, but you’ll likely want to take a look at the risks and benefits of each one to make a well-informed decision.
3 Strategies Dentists May Use to Check in with You About Any Anxiety You Could Be Experiencing
After studying this issue more in-depth, the dental community has come up with some strategies to help patients struggling with anxiety.
Observing Our Patients
Dentists often keep an eye on their patients to see if they might be nervous. While specific movements, such as shaky hands, may indicate a client’s level of anxiety, this isn’t always the case. It’s easiest for us if you’re direct about your feelings and tells us that you don’t particularly enjoy going to the dentist because it’s terrifying for you. We can then provide you with various pharmacological solutions or relaxation techniques that you might find helpful. We prioritize holistic care whenever we can, so you probably won’t have to consume any strong medications unless you choose to.
The most direct way for dentists to gauge their patients’ pain is to ask them if they’re experiencing any anxiety. If you are, please don’t feel ashamed. It’s okay to share this with us. We find this information extremely helpful when treating you, and we want to make sure that you feel as comfortable as possible whenever you come to our clinic.
Asking Our Clients to Self-report the Level of Dental Anxiety They May be Experiencing After Walking Through Our Doors
Some clients may be experiencing intense nervousness when they walk in, but many people have trouble admitting this out loud: No one wants to be judged by how they’re feeling, and we completely get this. That’s why many dentists hand out surveys to measure the level of anxiety their clients may be experiencing. These include the following:
- The Dental Fear Survey
- The Modified Child Anxiety Scale
- The Index of Anxiety & Dental Fear
How Dentists will Work with Anxious Patients
We understand that it can be extremely challenging to see the dentist, even if you need to when you’re experiencing a very intense level of fear before you even walk through our doors. Since so many people struggle with this emotion, we put together a list of tips for the dental community to better serve our patients. We’ve found that it is essential to build trust with our clients through effective communication. Fortunately, we can often modify our procedures for certain patients if they let us know how they feel.
Helpful Strategies Dentists Use to Help Patients with Their Nervousness
We know that fear is a very complex emotion, and you may be struggling for many reasons before you even come to see us. We’ve found that the following strategies have been beneficial for many of our clients, and we highly recommend them.
If clients are experiencing fear because they know they will be out of control during a particular procedure, the following methods often help:
- Tell-show-do (The dentist will detail which tools they’ll be using and show these to clients before performing the procedure).
- Rest breaks (The dentist or client may initiate breaks when the patient struggles with nervousness before their anxiety becomes too severe).
- Signalling (Certain hand signals can be agreed upon so that the patient can let their dentist know if they need to stop the procedure).
These methods can be helpful ways for dentists to provide their clients with some psychological relief during appointments.
We’ve found that clients often feel more relaxed if there’s calming music playing in the background when they walk into a dental clinic. Furthermore, we want to provide our patients with an environment that’s conducive to tranquillity.
Progressive relaxation can be a very effective method to decrease any anxiety. You tense your muscles about as much as you can—the tension should be around 75%—and then you hold them for approximately 10 seconds and release them for around 10 seconds. After this, you repeat the process until you feel calm. Many have found that this method is highly effective for reducing anxiety.
It’s completely normal to be afraid of going to see the dentist or the doctor, especially if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. If that is the case, we are deeply sorry that those events occurred, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that our patients have nothing but the best experience at our dental clinic here in Brisbane.