Dental anxiety is very common. Some estimates say that as much as 75% of Americans may have some level. Many of these people may have difficulty getting the dental treatment they need, and may not even consider the possibility of cosmetic dentistry. But once you understand the causes of being afraid of the dentist, you can see how it’s possible to overcome dental anxiety, possibly with sedation dentistry, to maintain the health and beauty of your smile.
Do You Have Dental Anxiety?
Being scared of going to the dentist is normal, but so is denial! Most people with dental fear may not understand that what they have is a recognizable and understandable condition. But how do you know when normal anxiety requires treatment? Watch out for these symptoms:
- It has been a year or more since your last dental visit
- You “forget” to make dental appointments or regularly have to cancel appointments because things “come up”
- You experience depression or feelings of physical illness or may cry when thinking about your appointment
- Feelings of fear when you think about:
- Having things in your mouth
- Having the dentist close or looking in your mouth
- Constant gagging during appointment
- Trouble getting numb during your appointment
- Muscle soreness during or after your appointment
- Clenching the armrests or inability to sit still during an appointment
- Poor sleep the night before an appointment
These are likely to indicate that you have some level of dental anxiety and may benefit from sedation dentistry.
Measuring Dental Anxiety
Because most people feel some degree of concern before dental visits, it’s important to distinguish between that “normal” level and levels that can lead to negative consequences. To do that, a number of dental anxiety scales have been developed. We have developed our own quiz that you can use to evaluate your level.
Consequences of Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety can be very destructive. The biggest problem is that people will avoid dental care, this fosters a cycle of dental fear that can worsen with age.
Avoiding routine dental care because of fear can increase a person’s risk of developing more serious dental problems. The need for more invasive gum disease treatment, frequent drilling for cavities, the placement of dental crowns, root canal therapy, and even dental extractions will increase fears. This leads to more avoidance behavior, and, therefore, more need for invasive treatments.
Dental anxiety has serious health consequences beyond the mouth. Avoiding dental treatment can increase a person’s risk for gum disease. Gum disease has been linked to many serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and several types of cancer. Treating gum disease can reduce the risk of these health conditions.
Dental anxiety can also impact a person’s social and professional life. An unhealthy smile is often a visible consequence, and this can put a person at a disadvantage in the job search, or in personal relationships.
Dealing with Dental Anxiety
There are many approaches to overcoming dental anxiety. Simple things that you can do on your own include distraction approaches and self-relaxation techniques. Simple visualization, meditation, and biofeedback approaches can be very effective.
Your dentist can help by providing distractions and taking a gentler approach to dental care. The creation of a relaxing atmosphere at the dental practice can help, and working with a dentist who inspires you with confidence and trust can also reduce your dental worries.
Sedation dentistry is very effective at overcoming concerns for most people. Although it may not reduce your tension overall, it can help you to get the treatment you need.
Adjunct therapy for dental anxiety can include working with a professional therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective.
If you are looking for a dentist skill in dealing with dental anxiety in the Orlando area, please call (407) 834-6446 today for an appointment with Dr. Michael L. Weinstock.