About 36% of the U.S. population is fearful of receiving dental treatment, while 12% experience intense fear. This can often lead to poor oral health because those with dental anxiety avoid going to the dentist or put off treatment for months or even years.
Regular dental exams and treatment are critical for preserving your oral health. Understanding the causes of dental anxiety and how to manage symptoms can help you get the dental care you need.
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Knowing what triggers your anxiety can help you better prepare and deal with the discomfort. Some common causes of dental anxiety include:
- Previous traumatic dental or healthcare experience
- Prior trauma to the neck or head
- PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or depression
- Embarrassment over poor oral hygiene
- Discomfort due to an invasion of personal space
- Fear of needles or pain associated with dental procedures
- Fear of a loss of control due to anesthesia
- Sensory processing issues due to drill noises, sounds, or smells
Tips for Overcoming Dental Anxiety
If you are one of the many people who experience dental anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help you overcome your fear and get the treatment you need, such as:
Schedule a Consultation
By researching the clinic’s environment and knowing what to expect during the treatment process, you can take the first step toward overcoming your anxiety. Schedule an initial non-treatment consultation with your dentist to discuss your anxiety and general oral health and explore the dental facility.
Ask a Friend or Family Member to Accompany You
Friends and family can provide emotional support, especially if you undergo a complicated or lengthy treatment. Many dentists allow you to bring a family member into the exam room while you receive treatment.
Request Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry uses sedative medications to put you into a deep state of relaxation. This can help calm any anxiety surrounding dental treatment. At Caputo Dental, we offer three sedation options depending on your anxiety level and the type of dental treatment you need.
Inhalation sedation uses nitrous oxide gas administered via a face mask. Oral sedation is given as a pill, while intravenous sedation is administered via injection by board certified anesthesiologists.
Headphones can help to block out the noise of dental instruments and offer a distraction to minimize anxiety during dental treatment. Bring your smartphone and listen to your favorite tunes or stream a series or audiobook while your dentist provides treatment.
Listen to Guided Meditation
Research suggests that guided imagery and meditation can help manage dental anxiety symptoms. Guided imagery uses audio cues to facilitate visualizations that calm and focus the mind and reduce stress levels in patients feeling nervous before a dental appointment.
Practice Deep Breathing
When you are anxious, your body produces adrenaline, which speeds up your heart rate and makes breathing difficult. Deep breathing exercises help relax the body and mind and can reduce anxiety.
To practice deep abdominal breathing, place your hands on either side of your belly button. Inhale for five seconds through your nose, inflating your abdomen like a balloon. Hold your breath for five seconds, then forcefully exhale through your mouth for five seconds, deflating your abdomen.
Get the Dental Care You Need at Caputo Dental
With the right resources and support, you can overcome dental anxiety. At Caputo Dental, our staff has the experience and compassion to help you manage dental anxiety. We offer a variety of resources to help you get the dental care you need, including sedation dentistry.
Contact us today to schedule a dental consultation and start your journey to better oral health.