It’s not uncommon to be scared of the dentist or to experience some level of fear or discomfort when it comes to visiting the dentist for a check-up. But for some people, it’s extremely stressful. This crippling fear can prevent them from seeking much-needed dental care, which can put their health at risk. Prioritise your health and discover how to cope with dental anxiety as Bloom, discusses this topic in more detail and explores techniques and options you can use to overcome your fear and have a positive dental experience.
Understanding dental anxiety: what is it?
Dental anxiety is a heightened or irrational fear response related to dental visits. The anxiety is often linked to certain procedures, like root canals, or equipment, like drills or needles. Sometimes the anxiety stems from past negative experiences. In other instances, certain types of mental health conditions, like Generalised Anxiety Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can increase an individual’s risk. Unfortunately, people with this type of anxiety tend to avoid or delay dental appointments, which is a risk to their oral health.
Symptoms of dental anxiety
An individual may experience a number of the following symptoms, which can range in severity:
- Profuse sweating
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
- Muscle tension, especially in the jaw
- Restlessness or fidgeting
- Sleep disturbance or gastrointestinal distress, prior to the visit
- Panic attack, in severe cases
The best ways of coping with dental anxiety
Discover how to ease your anxiety with some of these tactics and methods:
- Communicate with your dentist. If you do suffer from dental anxiety, it would be beneficial to discuss this openly with your dentist. The problem is not uncommon so they will be able to assist you by explaining procedures. This helps create an environment of trust and understanding.
- Relaxation techniques. It might help to use some popular methods, like breathing exercises, meditation or distraction techniques, like listening to music, to manage your anxiety levels and foster a calmer mindset before and during your dental visit.
- Sedation options. You can discuss possible sedation options with your dentist. The recommended course of action will depend on the level of your dental anxiety, the duration and complexity of the dental procedure and any specific health risks. Some of the options include the following:
- Nitrous Oxide. This is commonly known as ‘laughing gas’. It’s a mild sedative that is administered through a mask. It will induce a relaxed state, without putting you to sleep. The advantage of Nitrous Oxide is that it wears off quite quickly and doesn’t have severe or long-lasting side effects, so you can resume normal activities after the dental procedure – subject to the dentist’s recommendation.
- Oral sedatives. There are some types of prescription medication that be taken prior to your dental appointment. This will also induce a calming effect. However, this type of sedative may cause prolonged drowsiness so you would probably need to be accompanied to the dentist so you can be driven back home. Speak to your local GP to find out what sort of sedative they would recommend. Make sure you let your dentist know that you are going to take an oral sedative prior to the visit.
- Intravenous (IV) sedation. This type of sedative is administered directly into your vein. It’s often used for more complex dental procedures. The effect is quite strong and patients have limited awareness of their surroundings.
- Local anaesthesia. This is used to numb the area in your mouth or the area being treated so you won’t feel any pain or discomfort. In this way, patients are more relaxed during the dental procedure.
- General anaesthesia. This is reserved for individuals with an extreme dental phobia or for those procedures that are quite complex. General anaesthesia is administered by an anesthesiologist. Patients will be completely unaware of the procedure.
- Inhalation sedation. This is quite similar to Nitrous Oxide, but it’s a mixture of Nitrous Oxide and oxygen. It also induces a relaxed state and the effects wear off quite quickly.
- Regular dental visits. Establishing a regular routine of dental check-ups will build a positive attitude. Trust and familiarity with the dental environment and procedures will serve to reduce the negative associations an individual might have about dental visits.
- Support system. Sometimes, it helps to bring along a loved one, family member or friend to assist with emotional support and reassurance.
Dental coverage with the Health4Me dentistry plans
At Bloom, we want to keep your smile healthy and beautiful, which is why we encourage our members to visit the dentist for their annual check-ups. Momentum Health4Me Silver and Gold health insurance plans offer emergency and basic dentistry benefits. Discover more about the most common dental problems covered by health insurance.