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A Guide to Overcoming Dental Anxiety

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A young girl sitting in a chair at the dentist's office with an anxious look.

Visiting the dentist can be a source of significant stress for many, with the whirring of drills and the clinical environment sometimes spiralling into an intense fear known as dental anxiety. However, it’s essential to understand that this fear is common and, more importantly, that it can be managed.

Nitrous sedation is one approach to managing children’s and adult’s anxiety at the dentist. When you’re feeling anxious about your dental visit, don’t avoid it. Skipping essential preventive appointments can lead to more invasive procedures down the line. Instead, talk to your dentist about your worries and explore the options to address them.  

Understanding Dental Anxiety 

If you experience dental anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s a prevalent issue affecting around 36% of people, while 12% experience extreme fear. The distress associated with anticipation can prevent people from seeking or receiving proper dental care.

Causes & Triggers

The anxiety may stem from prior negative experiences, fear of pain, or even stories and perceptions propagated through media or peers. Common causes of dental anxiety or fear of the dentist include:  

  • Anesthetic  
  • Blood
  • Choking  
  • Needles  
  • Noises
  • Smells

A loss of control and helplessness in the dental chair can also leave people anxious. But once your dentist knows about your anxiety, they can alter your space to help prevent triggers.

Common Symptoms & Reactions

Like every form of anxiety, dental anxiety can cause a range of physiological, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. Some include:  

  • Chills  
  • Lightheadedness  
  • Excessive sweating  
  • Heart palpitation  
  • Nausea  
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Upset stomach  
  • Shaking 

Emotional reactions might include crying or signs of distress even when thinking about a dental visit and sleeplessness before the appointment.

A female patient having her teeth cleaned by a male dentist

Tips for Managing Dental Anxiety

Overcoming dental anxiety is a journey that can be made smoother with practical and thoughtful strategies.  

Communication with the Dentist  

Open and honest communication with your dental care provider is critical. Discussing your fears can lead to adjustments in treatment plans and the pace at which procedures are conducted.  

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can significantly alleviate anxiety during dental visits. Some effective regulation strategies include:  

Distraction Methods

Welcome distractions can help aid in relaxation. Bring music, audiobooks, or podcasts to listen to during the appointment. It can draw your focus away from your dental procedure and help you escape anxiety. 

Building Trust & Comfort 

A positive relationship between the patient and the dental team—built on trust and understanding—can significantly improve the dental experience. It’s essential for dental professionals to be attentive and responsive to the needs of anxious patients of any age.

Nitrous Sedation

For those with severe dental anxiety, sedation options like nitrous oxide—often referred to as “laughing gas”—can be a game-changer. Nitrous sedation helps reduce nerves and provides a sense of well-being during dental procedures.  

The colourless and odourless gas works quickly to trigger a pleasant feeling. Once the procedure is complete and nitrous sedation is turned off, the effects should disappear without negative aftereffects.  

It’s also considered effective for children to help ease their dental fears.   

Complications from Dental Anxiety

Many patients will avoid visiting the dentist because of their severe anxiety. However, this avoidance can lead to poor oral health. Your dental health is directly linked to your whole body’s health. Neglected oral health can lead to:  

When you skip critical cleanings and dental exams, you can develop problems that may require more involved procedures like root canals, implants, tooth extractions, and other restorative dentistry treatments.

Discover a Calming Environment for Dental Visits  

At Hill Top Dental Centre, we craft an ambiance that soothes and reassures, from the team’s demeanour to your careful treatment. Such an environment can contribute significantly to diminishing dental anxiety, particularly for kids who might be impressionable and more susceptible to fear.  

Overcoming dental anxiety is a process, and small victories should be celebrated. We hope dental appointments can become less daunting and more routine with time.  

Taking control of dental anxiety is crucial to good oral health and well-being. Don’t wait for an emergency to visit the dentist. Schedule an appointment for your cleaning and dental exam every 6 months to set you on the path to a healthy smile.   

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Written by Hill Top Dental Centre

Our clinic offers dental exams and cleanings for children and adultsemergency care when you need it, orthodontics to help align teeth or adjust a bad bite, crowns to restore the function and appearance of your teeth, and many other services to support your smile.

Book your family’s next dental appointments with Hill Top Dental Centre.

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