Dental Anxiety: How Your Dentist Can Help!

For both children and adults anxiety can often accompany visiting the dentist. At NEESH Dental we even recommend meeting the youngest member of the family as early as one year of age. We like to establish healthy, connected relationships with our clients from any age, and we find that establishing a rapport with our younger patients helps to reduce the stress, anxiety, and fear that can sometimes be felt when visiting the dentist. Still, if you are a patient who struggles with dental anxiety, or if you know someone who is, what follows is for you. We explore and define dental anxiety, talk about what it looks like, and offer tips and strategies to overcome it. 

Our mouths require regular care to remain healthy and happy

If you stop to think about it, our mouths are highly sensitive areas of our bodies. We eat and taste with our mouths; we speak and express outwardly our thoughts, feelings, and emotions with our mouths; and with our mouths, we take in nourishment…and cakes, pies, sugary drinks, coffee, and other assorted cavity-producing treats. Our mouths do a lot of work to keep us nourished and happy, but they require regular dental care to do that work, helping to keep us safe from ailments that can impact more severely our overall health: Endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth complications, pneumonia, diabetes, osteoporosis, and more.  

Then, that one fateful day arrives. Suddenly you feel your symptoms increasing in intensity: sweaty palms, heart rate rising, shortness of breath, increased agitation, and more.

Sitting in the chair at the dentist’s office, even as an adult, brings about anxiety for many of us. At NEESH Dental Studio we work closely with our patients so that their visit is even enjoyable. If you are a patient who struggles with dental anxiety, or if you know someone who is, there are a number of solutions to help you get the care you need, while managing your anxiety in a safe environment.

Dental Anxiety: What is it? 

What dental anxiety is can vary, and there can be many different causes for dental anxiety. Often dental anxiety is distinguished in two ways.

  • One: When the term dental anxiety is used to describe a state of fear, stress, or general anxiety when visiting the dentist.
  • Two: When your dental anxiety is severe enough that your dentist may need to work with other healthcare professionals to manage the anxiety so that you are able to visit the dentist—this is a dental phobia.

There are many more embodied signs of dental anxiety, though. For example, do any of the following happen to you when you visit your dentist?

  • Sweating?
  • Accelerated heartbeat?
  • Crying?
  • Anger?
  • Racing thoughts?
  • Feeling overwhelmed?

Though you may also experience any of these symptoms when your boss walks in the room, if you experience these symptoms while at the dentist, you may be experiencing dental anxiety.

Adult Dental Anxiety: what causes it? 

The truth is, there are a number of reasons why many of us experience anxiety when visiting the dentist. Many of us carry dental anxiety from childhood, but other reasons can also factor into our fear of the dental chair, such as:

  • Negative experiences
  • Loss of control
  • Fear of anesthesia
  • Trust issues
  • Fear of injections
  • Fear of the sounds of the drills and other tools
  • Fear of being too close to others 

4 common ways dental anxiety can occur in children.

Remember your first time visiting the dentist? Yes, your parents lied. You were not going to Disneyland. That scenario, by-the-way, would definitely explain having some trust issues. As young children, we first go to the dentist and we don’t fully know but we are about to have a stranger work in our mouths with tools. The roots of dental anxiety in children are many, but here are a few that have been found:

  1. Irregular dental attendance: The less often we visit the dentist as children, the more difficult it can become to do so in subsequent years. At NEESH Dental we hope to start forming a relationship with our little clients from as young as one year of age.
  2. A parent’s dental anxiety: If a parent experiences dental anxiety and expresses negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions toward visiting the dentist, a child may pick up on this, developing their own negative association with visiting the dentist.
  3. Horror stories from others: Some children have been exposed to graphic images or horror stories involving the dentist or dental procedures. This can inform dental anxiety in kids and create an aversion to visiting the dentist.
  4. Previous bad experience: Having had a previously bad experience with a dentist could result in avoiding the experience more actively in the future.

Top Tips for Beating Dental Anxiety

  • Learn about your Anxiety: Learning about anxiety can help to reduce its power. By learning about what triggers your anxiety, you can anticipate scenarios that may make you experience anxiety, which can help you be prepared to deal with the anxiety when it arises.
  • Breathe: There are a number of different breathing techniques you can use to try to control your anxiety. Short and rapid breaths can make the anxiety grow in intensity. Longer, slower, more controlled breaths can bring a sense of ease and calm, an antidote to anxiety.
  • Visualizations: Take a mental vacation somewhere peaceful and serene. This technique has often been employed to help patients cope with anxiety, and can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.
  • Aromatherapy: Not only can wearing a scent that brings you a sense of calm be, well, calming, smelling so good, you will also become your dentist’s favourite client.
  • Therapy/Counselling: Speaking to a trained professional about your anxiety is a great step to take. Therapists and counsellors are trained to help patients navigate and conquer their anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a popular method that examines our negative thoughts and makes clear how those impact our behaviours. 

Your Dentist Can Help with Your Dental Anxiety.

Point of Care, a publication endorsed by the Canadian Dental Association, Dr. Ruth Freeman, a professor of dental public health and behavioural sciences, shares compelling tips for how dentists can help support their patients with dental anxiety.

  • Your dentist can set aside time before the appointment to interview you someplace other than where the dental work will be completed.
  • Your dentist can help determine your level of dental anxiety.
  • Once discussed openly, both you and your dentist can discuss further how to proceed.
  • What is your treatment plan?
  • What are your treatment goals?
  • How can we get there together?  

Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Prevent you From Accessing Regular Dental Care.

From anger to cold sweats, shaking, tears, and more, dental anxiety is a real challenge for many. However, dental anxiety is not impassable, and your dental team is available to help lessen your symptoms. While we can’t cure your anxiety, we work very hard to ensure your comfort. Our dental team is available to answer your questions, talk you through the process, or let you put on your favourite podcast to distract you.

Remember, you’re not alone! Dental anxiety is a problem that affects 40 percent of the population in Canada, and it can prevent us from visiting our dentists as often as we should. In some cases, people are not consulting with their dentist at all, or only doing so in the case of an emergency. Waiting to receive care can be costly, as more extreme interventions become necessary to prevent further harm and damage. In addition, your dentist can assess you for other symptoms, like infections and oral cancer, important parts of early detection. At NEESH Dental Studio, not only do we have large private rooms and a well-lit, soothing environment, we also genuinely care about your health, well-being, and comfortability. This level of care is part of the NEESH experience. 

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