Dental anxiety is one of the most common conditions in Australia. Dental fear affects nearly one in seven Australian adults and one in ten children. The condition ranges from severe to minor, with some people experiencing a debilitating fear that prevents them from receiving necessary dental care.
If you suffer from dental anxiety, there are several actions you can take to reduce your fears, such as doing breathing exercises or meditation. There are also dental procedures and approaches, such as IV sedation dentistry, that help reduce anxiety when visiting your dentist.
Learn more about dental fear and how to get over dental anxiety using self-care methods and dentist-provided options.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a condition that causes a person to feel uncontrollable fear and anxiety about visiting the dentist. Adults between the ages of 40 and 64 are more likely to experience high dental fear than older patients. Female patients have a higher prevalence of dental fear than male patients.
While many people feel slightly uncomfortable at the thought of dental procedures, someone living with dental anxiety may suffer intense anxiety symptoms. The anxiety is so severe that it prevents them from maintaining their oral health.
Common symptoms of dental anxiety include:
- Feel lightheaded or faint
- Heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Mood changes
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
Different factors cause fear of the dentist. The following are commonly reported reasons that patients struggle with dental anxiety:
- Traumatic dental experiences
- Fear of pain
- Fear of drilling or needles
- History of abuse
- Fear of loss of control
- Issues with trust
- Fear of procedure aspects such as anaesthesia
- History of anxiety
Adverse Effects of Dental Anxiety on Oral Health
When anxiety causes you to avoid dental care regularly, it can adversely affect your oral health.
Decayed and missing teeth occur at a higher rate in those who experience fear around dental procedures. This is due to missed cleanings to remove plaque buildup and checkups that allow the dentist to identify and address oral issues before they become serious problems.
How to Get Over Dental Anxiety?
If you experience mild to severe dental anxiety, there are several things you can do to reduce your fears. Learning how to get over dental anxiety may mean using one or several of these approaches to move past your fear.
When figuring out how to get over dental anxiety, start by identifying where your fear originated. This can help you use the right method to address your anxiety. For instance, if you experience general dental fear, breathing exercises may work to calm your anxiety. However, if you experience deep-seated fear due to a past traumatic experience, an approach such as IV sedation dentistry may be necessary.
A natural method for combatting dental anxiety is employing breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation to slow your heart rate and ensure enough oxygen reaches your brain. Mindfulness techniques are used in patients with anxiety to help them focus on something tangible in the real world, rather than getting caught up in the cycle of anxious thoughts.
Try breathing in deeply through your nose; place your hands on your stomach and pay attention to the feeling of it rising and falling as you inhale and exhale. When you exhale, imagine you’re expelling stress from your body.
A similar technique for calming your anxiety is to try progressive muscle relaxation either at home before an appointment or while you’re at the dentist. Close your eyes and focus on tensing each muscle group in your body for a few seconds before relaxing. Start on your toes and work your way up to your torso, hands, and shoulders.
Talk with your dentist
You may reduce your dental anxiety by speaking with your dentist about your fears. Schedule a consultation and explain the causes and symptoms of your dental fear. Ask your dentist for clarification on any dental procedures that cause anxiety, and inquire about available options to help reduce your dental anxiety.
Clarification on processes and tools used during a procedure may alleviate some of your fears. Also, knowing what options are available to you if your anxiety becomes severe may help you go through with your appointment.
IV sedation dentistry
For severe cases of anxiety, many dental practices offer IV sedation dentistry. IV sedation dentistry uses sedative medicines to create a relaxed dental experience. During twilight sedation, you will feel drowsy and relaxed; however, the sedation does not put you completely to sleep.
Sydney Dental Group offers IV sedation for patients dealing with dental anxiety. We work with medically trained personnel to ensure a safe experience with IV sedation for your dental procedure. IV sedation is recommended for anyone who feels anxiety or nervousness when visiting the dentist.
For patients who struggle with severe dental anxiety, Sydney Dental Group also offers sleep dentistry, which uses general anaesthesia administered in a hospital setting to put you completely under for a procedure. This type of treatment is only recommended for patients undergoing complex surgical procedures or patients with severe dental phobia (dentophobia).
Speak With Your Dentist About Anxiety-Reducing Options
If you are wondering how to get over dental anxiety, schedule a consultation with the team at Sydney Dental Group. We offer IV sedation for patients dealing with dental fear and anxiety. Our staff is happy to talk you through what to expect when you come in for twilight sedation and answer any questions about the procedure.
Book your appointment online or call us on (02) 9158 6135 to discuss your anxiety-management options.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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Drilling Down: Discovering the Origins of Dental Anxiety
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Dental Fear and Anxiety: Information for Dental Practitioners
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