Getting Control of Dental Anxiety
For most people, a trip to the dentist isn’t the most exciting way to spend an hour or two. But for some people, dental anxiety can be so intense that many individuals delay routine checkups or essential dental care because of a fear of dentists, needles, or dental discomfort. Individuals with dental anxiety are more likely to have poor oral health and wait to seek treatment until oral care is unavoidable. A cyclical relationship occurs between traumatic dental visits and serious oral health issues, which only reinforces negative sentiments around seeing the dentist. To get control of dental anxiety, and protect oral health, consider the following recommendations.
Communicate with the dentist
Rather than suffering in silence, people with dental anxiety should speak with dental professionals about concerns and fears. But if clear communication or relaxation and mindfulness techniques don’t calm fears, consider talking to a dentist about dental sedation. Dental sedation is the use of medications to help calm a patient during the visit. Sedation can range from anti-anxiety medication options that a patient takes before arriving for an appointment to drugs administered during the dental visit.
Medications to take before the visit
If anxiety is so great that an individual doesn’t feel comfortable even showing up for an appointment, oral medication can be taken before the appointment. A dentist may prescribe medications for patients to take about an hour before the dental visit. Oral anti-anxiety medications are among the most common options used with sedation dentistry. Oral medications will usually cause drowsiness, and some patients do fall asleep and wake up easily after the procedure is complete.
Inhaled sedation is a minimal anesthetic option administered at a dentist’s office through a mask. This option allows an individual to be awake during dental procedures. Commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide helps the patient relax and is consistently monitored by the dentist. More importantly, laughing gas wears off relatively quickly once the mask is removed. For people that need to drive to and from a dental appointment alone, inhaled sedation is the best option.
For people with serious dental anxiety or individuals undergoing more extensive dental work, intravenous or IV sedation can be very effective. During IV sedation, a dentist administers the medication, but people are still awake. However, IV sedation requires constant monitoring of the patient’s vital signs.
Deep sedation and general anesthesia
For people undergoing more serious dental procedures or extreme dental anxiety, deep sedation and general anesthesia are often used. In both scenarios, the patient will be either completely asleep or almost unconscious. The amount of medication given will depend on the extent of the dental procedure or the patient’s anxiety levels.
The bottom line
Avoiding the dentist won’t make dental issues magically disappear. Don’t let dental anxiety contribute to poor oral health. General discomfort or dislike of going to the dentist is normal. But if dental anxiety is causing an individual to delay routine or essential dental care, speaking with a dentist is a good idea to discuss potential sedation dental options that can get people back on track with proper oral care.