If you have ever experienced a fear of the dentist you know that dental anxiety can be a powerful, all-consuming feeling. Dental anxiety can affect your body and your mind. Your breathing can become difficult, you may experience a panic attack, nausea or be unable to control your tears. Dental anxiety does not discriminate, it affects adults and children, men and women. So, if you are the one in six Australian adults or one in 10 children who experience dental anxiety, you can breathe more easily know there are ways you can deal with these feelings.
What is Dental Anxiety?
You may be suffering from dental anxiety if you experience one or more of the following symptoms when thinking about or attending a dental appointment:
- A racing heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure which may cause you to faint
- Distress signs such as crying or having a panic attack
- Coping mechanisms such as withdrawal, aggression or masking your feelings with humour
Dental anxiety can develop and be triggered by several factors. It can be helpful in the treatment and management of dental anxiety for you to identify if your dental anxiety has arisen from:
- A previous traumatic experience
- An existing trauma to you neck or head area
- Other trauma such as abuse
- A generalized anxiety disorder/s
- Trust issues or a fear of not being in control
- Concerns for your personal space and privacy
Both adults and children can be affected by dental anxiety. However, in most cases when a child has a traumatic dental experience, they can overcome it in the future with care and attention from their parents and dentist. When an adult suffers dental anxiety, they are more likely to experience the condition for their entire adult life, unless they seek mental health treatments from their GP or a Psychologist.
How to cope with dental anxiety
Feelings of anxiety are experienced on a spectrum and as such, there are different ways you can deal with dental anxiety depending on its severity. To deal with general anxiety you may benefit from breathing exercises, meditation or focusing on progressive muscle relaxation.
As you start to think about your next dentist appointment and as the day approaches, there are additional techniques you can use to help you overcome your dental anxiety. The most important step is to find a dentist who understands dental anxiety and is experienced in treating anxious patients. This will make it easier to explain how you feel and have your feelings acknowledged and validated, which is the first step to managing anxiety.
Here at Grange Family Dental, we have installed television screens above every one of our patients’ chairs to help you focus on something other than the procedure. Or, you may prefer to bring in a music device with meditations or a special playlist to listen to during the procedure. We will also take the time to talk to you through treatment options and tailor a treatment plan to suit your level of dental anxiety. This may include administering nitrous oxide or IV sedation during the procedure to manage your anxiety and reduce your awareness of the procedure.
Sometimes, you may feel more comfortable if you are able to visit our office before your appointment. You’ll be able to meet all our friendly staff, experience the environment and even sit in the dentist’s chair to become familiar with the feeling without associating it with the pain or anxiety. Remember, you are in control throughout the procedure. All you have to do is raise your hand to signal the dentist. The dentist will stop and allow you to focus your breathing and mediation and they won’t continue again until you feel comfortable.