Dental anxiety is the discomfort or fear of going to the dentist. There is no singular cause of dental anxiety, and everyone is different. For example, one patient may have developed a fear of the dentist during childhood, and another may have had a traumatic experience.
Regardless of the reason, it can keep patients from their dental appointments. However, there are some ways that you can cope with dental anxiety.
If you can, try to distract yourself from your anxiety as much as possible. Not focusing on the dental procedure can ease your stress. At the very least, the time will pass much quicker if your mind is not on your procedure.
Bringing headphones can help distract you during your appointment. For example, you can listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. Anything that will reduce your anxiety is a great idea.
Another distraction can be a person. Bringing a friend or loved one can calm your nerves. For example, while your dentist works, your friend can talk to you or hold your hand. Having support can minimize any fears or anxiety you may have.
If you experience dental anxiety, you should talk to your dentist. It is their job to make sure you are comfortable during your appointment. In addition, they want you and your teeth to be as healthy as possible. Therefore, they can provide you with a few options to make your experience run smoothly.
Perhaps your anxiety stems from a fear of pain or not knowing about your procedure. These are issues that your dentist can help alleviate. You can ask them any questions you may have concerning your procedure.
For example, your dentist can walk you through each step of your dental process. With a dental filling, your dentist can tell you about the local anesthetic, the drill, and the composite resin. They can also help manage your expectations about pain.
Additionally, your dentist can reduce your anxiety with sedation.
There are different kinds of sedation your dentist can offer you. Your dentist’s recommendation may depend on your level of fear or the type of procedure.
Oral conscious sedation (OCS) is a prescribed medication that you will typically take in pill form. Before your appointment, you will take the sedative so that you will be relaxed before you enter the dental office. OCS will give you a calming effect and possibly make you sleepy. With this sedative, you will need someone to escort you to and from your appointment because you will not be able to drive yourself.
Another form of sedation is nitrous oxide—“laughing gas.” Your dentist will administer the gas through a mask or nosepiece in the office. Nitrous oxide should make you feel relaxed and at ease. You will begin to feel the effects quickly, which is beneficial for you. Once the dentist reverses the gas, the effects will lift, meaning you can drive yourself after your procedure.