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Anxiety in the Dentist's Chair: How We Can Help

Do you feel scared of your dentist but still need treatment? Our Edmonton dentists explore the issue of dental anxiety in adults and children and offer tips that may help to quell fear, allowing you to get those important visits done.

Dentists & Dental Anxiety

Many people have experienced stress, anxiety or fear in a dental setting. While this feeling is normal, being scared of the dentist or certain procedures can become so severe for some patients that delay getting necessary treatment - or avoiding attending appointments altogether. 

If dental anxiety progresses to a severe stage that involves irrational fear and avoidance of the dentist, it can be classified as dental phobia. Of course, this can negatively impact our oral and overall health. That's why we're here to help. 

At Azarko Dental Group, we're committed to doing everything in our power to help patients feel more comfortable with their dentist and dental procedures. In this post, we'll discuss dental anxiety, why some people are scared of the dentist, some solutions that may help. We'll also offer some tips on how to not be scared of the dentist that may work for you. 

Symptoms of Dental Anxiety

If you experience fear or anxiety about going to the dentist, or have ever had a bout of extreme anxiety at your dentist's office, you may have felt it in your body as well as in your mind. 

People with dental anxiety may experience various symptoms, including:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Low blood pressure and potential fainting (syncope)
  • Sweating
  • Withdrawal, including using aggression or humour to mask anxiety 
  • Visible distress, including crying or signs of panic 

Causes of Dental Anxiety & Fear 

Many people who experience dental anxiety ask themselves, "Why am I afraid of the dentist?" Dental anxiety can have several potential causes, including:

  • Previous trauma to the neck or head 
  • A traumatic dental or other healthcare experience 
  • Other traumatic experiences, including abuse 
  • Trust issues
  • Fear of loss of control 
  • The perspective that the mouth is a personal area and accessing the mouth is an invasion of personal space 
  • Generalized anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety related to other conditions 

Who's at Risk for Dental Anxiety 

Anyone of any age can be impacted by dental anxiety. As noted above, people who have had previous mental, emotional or physical trauma, including enduring different types of abuse, may be at increased risk for dental anxiety. 

There is also sometimes stigma surrounding dental anxiety, as many people grew up hearing that dental appointments may be nerve-wracking for everyone, but we must just get through them.

Parents, dentists or other people in a patient's past may not have understood dental anxiety, how severe it can be for some or the significant ramifications for a patient's emotional, oral and general health and well-being. 

Managing Dental Anxiety or Phobia 

Dental anxiety is an issue that many patients have. Before seeing their dentist, many patients feel anxiety or fear leading up to their appointments.

However, this is no reason to put off much-needed appointments or avoid treatment designed to preserve your oral health - especially since preventive treatment can help to prevent oral diseases and the need for more complex and invasive treatments in the future.  

After identifying their own or their children's triggers, the next question patients often have is how not to be scared or afraid of the dentist, or upcoming dental appointments.

While yours or your child's anxiety may feel overwhelming and insurmountable, there are many ways you and your dentist can manage your dental anxiety or phobia.

Our dentists in Edmonton recommend letting them know if you experience any level of dental anxiety. By openly discussing your specific anxiety triggers,  your dentist may be able to help you customize a management plan that will work for you. 

Some psychological coping techniques that help many patients include:

  • Guided imagery
  • Deep breathing
  • Using your own weighted blanket 
  • Distraction (such as using devices or listening to music)
  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation 
  • Agreeing with your dentist to pause or stop treatment if you're feeling overwhelmed (based on a signal such as raising your left hand or index finger)
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

How do I get my child to not be afraid of the dentist?

In most cases, children who have had poor dental experiences can overcome their fear or anxiety if the situation is closely managed and they are well-cared for by their current dentist. 

We recommend looking for a dentist who offers children's dental services and is committed to explaining dental procedures in language your child can understand, in addition to taking breaks if they're feeling overwhelmed. 

Dental Care for Anxious Patients at Azarko Dental Group

At Azarko Dental Group, we are committed to discussing any concerns or fears patients may have and helping them to manage anxiety during their appointments. We can often help patients of any age relax during their appointments so they can get the treatment they need. 

If you feel nervous about an upcoming dental appointment, keep in mind that we're here for you. Our friendly team can help you relax and feel more comfortable during your appointments, so you can get the dental care you need to maintain good oral health. 

We also offer multiple options to book appointments - by phone or through our online request form. Our West Edmonton dental clinic offers extended evening hours and is open Saturdays and Sundays, while our South Edmonton clinic also offers evening hours and is open on Saturdays.

Are you wondering how our dentists can help make your dental appointments more comfortable? Contact our Edmonton dentists. We are always happy to answer inquiries or address concerns.

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