By Tontra Lowe, DDS
Dental anxiety is a very real thing for many people and is, in fact, a recognized psychological condition wherein a person experiences heightened stress and anxiety before and during dental procedures. While a fear of the dentist can be common, it can also keep you from getting the care your smile and your body needs and can result in serious problems down the road. The good news is that there are ways to cope with, and hopefully conquer, dental anxiety.
When scheduling your appointment, let the staff know you’ve had issues with dental anxiety in the past. There’s no need to be embarrassed and speaking up helps the dentist and his or her team to be prepared to take some extra time to address your concerns.
Take some of the mystery about what will happen during your appointment by asking your dentist for as many details as possible. Knowing what to expect can go a long way toward alleviating stress and anxiety.
Establish a Signal
Come up with a signal – like raising your hand – that you can give your dentist in case you start to feel overwhelmed and need a break for a few minutes.
Bring your phone and earbuds and enjoy your favorite music, book-on-tape, or podcast to take your mind off things during your appointment.
If these techniques aren’t effective at keeping you comfortable during your appointment, you might want to consider sedation dentistry. There are several kinds available, so talk with your dentist about which might be right for you.
Nitrous oxide – Commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a mild sedative you inhale during treatment. It has a pleasant, sweet smell and helps your mind and body relax. Some people feel euphoric or giddy, hence the nickname. It can also suppress sensitive gag reflexes or make time appear to pass more quickly. In addition, it wears off in no time, typically without side effects.
Oral sedation – For some procedures, your dentist can provide you with an oral sedative to take before you come in. These can be stronger in effect than nitrous oxide, so you should plan on having someone else drive you home.
IV sedation – As the name implies, this is administered intravenously, and the medication can be monitored and adjusted quickly should the need arise. Although strong, it is still a form of conscious sedation. However, you may fall asleep or not remember your entire visit. Again, someone else will need to drive you home.
Clearly, dental anxiety can be dealt with in a variety of ways. It’s simply a matter of finding the one that works for you, so you can keep your smile – and your whole body – healthy.
About the Author
Dr. Tontra Lowe is the President and CEO of Awesome Smiles Dental Center located next to the Haymarket Kohl’s. She is an expert in enhancing smiles that change lives, and also is a certified sedation dentist. Voted Best Dental Office in Haymarket since 2014, Dr. Lowe’s team is available to assist you in reducing dental anxiety so you can smile with confidence.