For many people, going to the dentist is an unpleasant but manageable experience. For others, just the thought of going to the dentist causes severe anxiety, leading them to delay or avoid dental treatment. Unfortunately, this behaviour can spiral into a vicious circle of dental pain, heath problems, worse anxiety, and more complex and costly dental procedures.
It’s very common for people to fear going to the dentist. When dental fear is severe and leads people to delay or cancel treatment, these individuals may meet criteria for dental phobia. There are many different reasons for and triggers for dental anxiety. For some, they have had previous traumatic experience; for others, they are extremely afraid of needles. Because the origin of fear can vary from patient to patient, it is critical that you identity your fears and share this with your dentist.
The best way to avoid complex dental procedures and pain is to regularly visit your dentist. Not only will your dentist diagnose problems and help you prevent further issues, but they will also help manage your oral health as part of your general health. Your mouth is the gateway to your body. For example, people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have periodontitis, a type of bon and gum disease, which could lead to tooth loss.
Many people fear the dentist because they are afraid of pain. There are several ways to manage this during and after dental treatment. Most commonly, dentists will use topical and local anaesthesia. Topical anaesthesia is a numbing gel that can help ease the insertion of a thin needle use to deliver local anaesthesia. The local anaesthesia will take effect within minutes, typically last for several hours, and numbs just the area that your dentist needs to complete the procedure. Furthermore, depending on the type of procedure, your dentist may advise one or more of the following to minimize pain and swelling after your visit, ice, oral rinses, over the counter pain medication or prescription medication.
It is highly encouraged that you explore a combination of the following options to reduce dental anxiety prior to considering medications. Relaxation exercises such as focused breathing and meditation can slow your heart rate and put you at ease. Many people find bringing distractions to the dental chair to be effective. Examples include headphones for music or podcasts, and a stress relief ball that can be squeezed with you hands to release tension during the procedure. Some patients find comfort bringing a friend or family member to the appointment. Ultimately, managing your dental anxiety will involve a combination of things. Talk with your dentist and explain exactly what makes you nervous about the visit. Your dentist will do a careful review of your medical history in order to make safe recommendations while considering your overall health. And lastly, visit your dentist regularly even if you are not in dental pain. This is the best way to prevent more painful experience and more complex and costly procedures.