If the thought of going to the dentist makes you shudder, you’ve probably tried plenty of different tactics to reduce your fear. Maybe you’ve listened to music before or during a dental appointment to try and calm down, or worked with your dentist to establish a “stop signal” in case you need to take a breather in the middle of a procedure or cleaning.
There are plenty of theories about things that will reduce dental anxiety. But what about information? Could knowing the ins and outs of your dental procedure help calm your fears? Researchers decided to find out.
What’s Going On In There?
For many people with dental anxiety, sitting down in the dentist’s chair and opening your mouth can feel like giving up control. There’s no way for you to see what’s going on in your mouth, and that can make each shiny metal tool and threatening sound feel magnified into something far more terrible than it is.
For this reason, one of the recommended ways to reduce dental anxiety is to speak with your dentist beforehand about the procedure, so you know exactly what’s happening. Some patients even prefer their dentist to tell them what they’re doing as they work, so their anxious mind can’t fill in the gaps with horror stories.
Measuring the Effects of Multimedia Information
A recent study set out to measure which methods of conveying information about a procedure, if any, were the most effective in reducing anxiety.
Researchers started with a group of 60 patients who were about to undergo dental implant surgery. They were then split into three groups of 20. One group received verbal information about the procedure including operative details and recovery. One group received the same verbal information, but paired with a video that included a preoperative interview with a dental implant patient, and then footage of the surgeons performing the implant surgery. The control group was given verbal information about the procedure, but no details about the operation or the recovery process.
The results were clear: Patients who received verbal information about the procedure experienced less anxiety than the control group, but the procedure video counteracted the positive benefits of that information. Watching the video, researchers concluded, was a stressful event for patients, and ultimately increased their anxiety level during the procedure.
On the other hand, patients who were given the full details of the operation had lower levels of anxiety both before the procedure and one week into recovery. Information is good, but written information helps avoid visceral triggers.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, so the best way to make sure that you feel comfortable and safe during your dental procedure, be it a simple cleaning or an oral surgery, is to talk with your dentist. A dentist who is experienced with dental anxiety, like Dr. Michael L. Weinstock, can help you determine the best way to manage your anxiety.
For those with high levels of dental anxiety, sedation dentistry is a safe and effective way to manage your fear and ensure that your experience is anxiety-free. For many people, experiencing sedation dentistry just once is enough to break the cycle of fear and make future procedures easier.