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For some people, a routine visit to the dentist can cause feelings of stress, panic and fear. Most people learn how to cope with the minor stresses of going to the dentist, but for those with dental anxiety or phobia, the thought of sitting in a dental chair can be extremely overwhelming.

What Is Dental Phobia?

When someone has a phobia of something, they have an irrational fear of it. People with dental phobia will avoid the dentist for as long as possible. Dental anxiety and phobia are more common than you would think. An estimated 9 to 15 percent of Americans avoid the dentist because of anxiety.
Most people use the words phobia and anxiety interchangeably, however, they actually have different meanings. People with dental anxiety feel uneasy and stressed before their dental appointments, while people with dental phobia have an intense fear and are extremely anxious before a dental appointment.
People with dental phobia not only put their oral health in jeopardy, but they also jeopardize their mental and emotional health. A person with dental phobia will avoid the dentist at all costs, which puts them at a higher risk of developing gum disease and tooth loss. Discolored or damaged teeth can make a person feel very self conscious. They may become so self conscious about their teeth that it affects their professional and personal lives.

Causes Of Dental Anxiety or Phobia

People who suffer with dental anxiety or phobia develop their fears for a number of different reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Pain – The fear of pain is most common among adults 24 years and older. This may be due to the fact that some of their first visits to the dentist were before any advancements were made in pain-free dentistry.
  • Helplessness and Loss of Control – Many people develop phobias when they have no control over the situation. When they have to sit in a dental chair, they are unable to move and are unable to see what the dentist is doing inside their mouth, which may trigger anxiety.
  • Embarrassment – Some people might be embarrassed to have their dentist be so close to their mouth, especially if they are self conscious of their teeth.
  • Negative Past Experiences – Anyone who has had an uncomfortable experience during previous dental procedures will most likely be anxious to visit the dentist there after.

Symptoms of Dental Anxiety or Phobia

Those who have dental anxiety or phobia cope with it in their own ways. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • You feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment.
  • You become increasingly nervous right before your dental appointment.
  • You feel like crying at the thought of setting up an appointment with your dentist.
  • The thought of dental instruments increases your anxiety.
  • You become panicked and experience shortness of breath when dental instruments are put in your mouth during a dental appointment.

Oral Sedation

People who experience dental anxiety or phobia can be treated. Without treatment, their lack of oral hygiene will not only affect their oral health, but it will start to affect their overall health. Those who are extremely tense during dental appointments may have a lower pain threshold. Meaning, the level of pain they can tolerate is lower than most people. Fortunately, oral sedation provides a safe and comfortable experience for patients with dental anxiety or phobia.

What is Oral Sedation?

Sometimes referred to as relaxation, sleep, or anxiety free dentistry, oral sedation is offered by dentists all over the United States. Sedative medication helps relax patients who suffer with dental anxiety. It slows the action of the central nervous system, therefore making the patient less responsive to the sound of dental instruments. Oral sedation also reduces the patient’s sense of pain.
After taking a sedative, most people feel at ease and more relaxed. In a dental setting, patients almost always remain aware of their surroundings and are able to answer questions. The use of anesthesia – where patients fall asleep – is only used in hospitals. For those with dental anxiety or phobia, sedatives make oral care easier to tolerate. Due to its efficiency, dentists who use oral sedation are often able to perform a number of different procedures in one sitting. This is beneficial to people with busy schedules who often can’t afford to make multiple trips to the dentist.

How to Prepare for a Sedation Visit

If you are planning on using oral sedation, your dentist may send you a prescription for a sedative to take the night before your appointment. Oral sedation is a great option for most people because it does not involve being poked with any needles. Most sedatives can be swallowed or crushed and administered by your dentists. These medications are given sublingually (under the tongue) which means the medication is absorbed into your bloodstream quicker.
On the day of your treatment, you should have someone bring you to your appointment. An experienced sedation team should monitor you during your entire visit. These medications are safe and have been used for years.

The Recovery Process

You will need to provide your dentist with your health history and have a friend or family member drive you home after your appointment. You should not eat six hours before your appointment unless told to do otherwise by your dentist. Your health history will ultimately determine your before and after process. This is especially true for diabetics or smokers. If you are undergoing a long procedure, you will most likely have to take the rest of the day off. If your procedure is shorter, only a half day may be necessary. Do not drive or operate any heavy machinery up to 24 hours after your appointment and make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.
If you suffer with dental anxiety or phobia, you should express your feelings and concerns to your dentist.
Contact Lakeway Cosmetic Dentistry today to schedule an appointment and find out how sedation dentistry can help you overcome your dental anxiety.