How to Overcome Dental Appointment Anxiety

Many patients experience anxiety when they visit the dentist’s office. Dental procedures, including routine checkups, can seem scary to the average patient. Yet, dentists have many ways to help patients manage their fears.

The exact reason patients experience dental anxiety remains a mystery, but researchers have some leads. A vicious cycle exists. When patients fear visiting the dentist, they fail to receive the care they need. By not receiving proper care, they then fear the resulting treatments for tooth decay. The cycle then starts all over again.

The good news is that with the right approach, you can learn to manage this anxiety in cooperation with your dentist. All dentists want their patients to feel at ease. Always feel free to talk to your dentist and express your concerns to them. Read on for our top strategies for managing dental anxiety.

Make Use of Basic Physiological and Metabolic Techniques

The brain’s amygdala regulates emotions such as anxiety and arousal to external stimuli. Unfortunately, this part of the brain can also become overactive, leading to anxiety. Even the anticipation of a dental appointment can cause the amygdala to lash out.

Consider the following techniques to manage the sympathetic nervous response:

  • Deep breathing: Research has demonstrated that deep breaths can trick the brain into a state of relaxation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Also known as PMR, this strategy involves inhaling, contracting muscles, and releasing tension.
  • Meditation: Many types of meditation have demonstrated effectiveness in treating anxiety disorders.
  • Exercise: By exercising frequently, you can train your brain to manage stress more efficiently.

Enlist the Help of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps adjust thoughts and assist in coping with stressful situations. Seeking out a therapist can be the first step on the path to overcoming dental anxiety.

A good therapist will work with you to design a plan that helps you to identify unwanted thoughts and feelings. Your therapist will then help you reprocess these thoughts into healthier emotional responses.

Consider asking your family doctor or general practitioner for a referral to a psychotherapist.

Ask Your Doctor about Anxiolytic Medication

A category of drugs known as anxiolytics can help to lessen the effects of anxiety.

One type of drug in particular, benzodiazepines, functions as short-term relief from anxiety. The types of benzodiazepines include alprazolam, lorazepam, and diazepam.

A general practitioner or psychiatrist can prescribe these medications after speaking with you. Keep in mind that doctors only prescribe these medications on a short-term basis. They tend to lose effectiveness over longer periods of time. A doctor can also prescribe safe long-term medication to help with persistent anxiety issues.

Consider In-Appointment Sedation

One technique that dentists use, sedation, involves nitrous oxide or stronger medications. These medications can induce anxiety relief or light anesthesia.

For patients receiving more complex dental procedures, a dentist or dental surgeon may also work with an anesthesiologist.

Your dentist will work together with you to devise a sedation plan that minimizes both your awareness of the procedure and your anxiety surrounding it. They will also treat any of the resulting pain, including post-operative pain.

Talk To Your Dentist About Your Anxiety

All dentists care about the physical and psychological well-being of their patients. Your dentist will work with you to address your concerns before your appointment and devise helpful strategies. Be sure to raise your concerns with your dentist before, during, and after your appointment. By expressing your fears to your dentist, they can work with you to resolve the underlying discomfort.

For more information about dental anxiety, reach out to us today at Highline Dental, a family dentistry office serving Richmond, TX. Our office offers anxiolytics and nitrous.