How to Cope with Dental Anxiety

Fear of the dentist is a common issue that affects as many as 36% of people. This anxiety can range from mild discomfort at the thought of a dental visit to avoidance altogether. Unfortunately, avoiding the dentist can lead to oral issues being missed until they become severe. 

There is hope. Learning about the signs and causes of dental anxiety can help lessen their impact, so you can get the care you need for good dental health. 

Symptoms of dental anxiety

Signs of dental anxiety can arise before an exam even begins. Symptoms may include:

  • Crying/panic attacks/hyperventilation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Palpitations/increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Agitation/aggressive behaviour
  • Difficulty sleeping prior to an appointment

Causes of dental anxiety

The causes behind dental anxiety vary from person to person. For some, they may be a symptom of another issue, such as general anxiety disorder, claustrophobia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. For others, it’s a sign of fears specific to dental work, such as:

  • Previous experience. A previous negative dental experience, or even the memory of watching a frightening show as a child that featured a dentist, can cause ongoing fear. 
  • Trust issues or loss of control. Many people don’t know their dentist well, especially if they’ve had multiple dentists in their lifetime. Sitting in a dental chair can also raise feelings of vulnerability and lack of control. 
  • Fear of pain. Dental procedures and their associated tools can be triggering. The sound of a drill or sight of a needle can be upsetting for those who have aural sensitivity or a fear of injections. Not understanding a procedure or the tools used can exacerbate anxiety. 
  • Anesthetic concerns. Anesthesia has a range of possible side effects, including drowsiness, localized numbness/tingling, and swelling. These physical effects can cause anxiety, and having experienced them during a previous dental visit can lead to aversion to feeling them again. Some people may fear anesthesia won’t work, which could lead to fear of pain during a procedure. 

Tips to cope with dental anxiety

While the symptoms and causes of dental anxiety are challenging, you can use a variety of techniques and tools to cope before and during your appointment.

  • Practice meditation or breathing techniques. Meditation and deep breathing calm your body’s automatic stress response, which can help you feel more at ease while at the dentist.
  • Bring a distraction. Make sure you arrive at your appointment on time but not too early. While you wait, give your mind another focus by reading a book, listening to relaxing music, or watching a show on a mobile device or TV screen in the dental office. 
  • Fidget away. Some people find comfort bringing a small fidget or stress ball to hold in their hands during a procedure. Young children may want to bring a favourite stuffed animal or blanket.
  • Talk to your dentist. Ask your dentist to explain what they’re doing during a procedure. Don’t hesitate to ask them to walk you through it ahead of time, too, if that’s helpful for you. 
  • Bring a loved one. Knowing you have someone waiting for you in the waiting room can be relieving, especially if it’s your first time in a clinic that’s new to you. 

How we help

Lewis Estates Dental Centre is here to help address your fears. Dr. Bains and the team are focused on your care and comfort, and we provide a range of options for safe, relaxing dental care. 

  • Sedation dentistry. Our office offers a range of sedation options, including local sedation and IV sedation. Talk to Dr. Bains to see if this is needed and what option is right for you. 
  • Convenient booking. The Lewis Estates Dental Centre team can take the pressure of needing to call for your next appointment off by booking one from the convenience of your dentist’s chair. 
  • COVID-19 protocols. The clinic maintains high standards of safety by keeping COVID-19 protocols in place. Patients complete a COVID-19 status questionnaire and are asked to wear a mask before entering the facility. Physical distancing and hand sanitizing stations are available in the waiting area. Medical-grade air purifiers are also maintained throughout the clinic. 

Going to the dentist shouldn’t be an anxious experience. Call the team at Lewis Estates Dental Centre today to find out how they can help you cope with your anxiety and receive the gentle oral care you deserve. 

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