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Managing Dental Anxiety

May 1, 2018


No matter how routine a dental procedure is, you may feel at least a twinge of anxiety when visiting the dentist. For some, the phobia is so extreme that they will endure gum disease, tooth pain, and other ailments just to avoid an examination. An estimated 30 to 40 million Americans have some form of dental phobia.

Certain oral diseases can compromise the health of your whole body, so it is important to schedule regular dental visits. Discolored, missing, broken, or otherwise unsightly teeth and gums can negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem, leading to problems in his or her personal and professional life.

Here’s how to diagnose and manage dental anxiety so you can visit the dentist worry-free.

Diagnosing Dental Anxiety

An individual with dental anxiety will experience nervousness or unfounded fear of an upcoming visit. Even if there is no reason for the patient’s concern, he or she may feel stressed at the idea of even a simple examination. A patient with dental phobia, a more extreme form of anxiety, will experience irrational terror over a dentist visit. These individuals are prone to avoiding care even at a personal and emotional cost.

Some common symptoms of dental anxiety include difficulty sleeping the night before, nervousness while making an appointment or sitting in the waiting room, difficulty breathing, nausea, and physical illness.

Examining the Causes of Dental Anxiety

If the symptoms above sound familiar, or if you have other reason to suspect you have dental anxiety, it may be helpful to determine the cause. A negative past experience such as an injury or an abusive dentist can cause a patient to feel anxious at his or her future appointments. Another common cause of dental anxiety is a fear of pain. Even if the patient has been told that the procedure is pain-free, he or she may still unconsciously feel afraid.

Some patients feel self-conscious about their mouth or teeth and become embarrassed at the thought of an examination. Furthermore, a patient may feel helpless at the thought of losing control during a dental visit.

Once you have identified the cause of your anxiety, you can develop strategies for managing it.

Managing Dental Anxiety

The most important step in managing your anxiety is to have an open, honest conversation with your dentist about your concerns. Book a consultation prior to your appointment to discuss your symptoms and the cause of your anxiety. Your dentist will be more than willing to take appropriate steps to ensure your comfort.

Patients may also feel better bringing a supportive friend or family member to their appointment. The familiarity can help relieve stress and help patients feel more relaxed. While at your consultation, make sure your dentist will allow visitors to be in the room during your appointment.

If you are struggling with dental anxiety, give our office a call at (843) 723-5346 or fill out our online form to set up a consultation. Let our friendly, experienced team help alleviate your fears and keep your smile beautiful.