Experiencing significant anxiety and nervousness concerning going to the dentist office prevents many people in the United States from seeking the preventative oral care that they need. This dental anxiety can result in more than just losing teeth or experiencing dental pain. If a person’s oral health reaches a certain state of decline, they can develop gum disease, a condition that infects not only the mouth but also other parts of the body.
A recent study conducted at King’s College London shows that dental anxiety has a substantial effect on a person’s social, emotional psychological and physiological states. Individuals with the condition tend to have missing teeth and active cavities. They will be hesitant to smile and display their teeth and will feel embarrassed about the condition of their mouth. They can also experience fatigue, sadness, and discouragement.
Most of these issues stem from the fact that people with dental anxiety will actively avoid receiving regularly scheduled dental services. If they do manage to visit the dentist, their dental anxiety may compel them to opt for short-term dental solutions instead of long-term dental care that may be more effective in addressing their particular oral health problems.
Why Do People Have Dental Anxiety?
Understanding why you have dental anxiety is the first step in overcoming the debilitating condition. Experiencing dental anxiety can be the result of:
- Having a previous unpleasant experience as a dental patient
- Suffering from a condition that can be easily aggravated by a dentist visit, such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders or other anxiety or mood disorders
- Extreme discomfort of not being in full control during a dental visit
How to Overcome Dental Anxiety
There are some actions you can take to become more comfortable with receiving the dental care you need:
- Bring someone with you when you go to the dentist. It should be someone you trust, such as a close relative or friend, who will be willing to sit with you while you receive treatment.
- Occupy yourself with a distraction while you are in the dentist’s chair. You can listen to your favorite music with your headphones or focus on a distraction in the room, such as a television.
- Consider sedation dentistry. If you are a qualified candidate, your dentist may administer the appropriate type of sedative that will keep you relaxed during your treatment. This can include nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, intravenous sedations or a local anesthetic.
- Learn some effective relaxation techniques that will lower your heart rate and make your muscles relax. Meditation may be an effective tool. You may also want to try to engage in controlled breathing by taking a very deep breath, holding it for a short count and the letting it out very slowly. Another way to relax is by participating in progressive muscle relaxation, which entails tensing and then relaxing different groups of muscles.
Don’t let your dental anxiety be the reason that you do not receive the dental services you need to have optimal oral health. Speak with a dentist about what he or she can do to make your visit more comfortable.