Dental Phobias

A significant number of patients – up to 75 percent according to some studies – have a significant fear of going to the dentist. Whether it’s due to a previous negative experience or just from the discomfort of having instruments in their mouth, this can interfere with a person’s ability to receive dental care.

Unfortunately, people who have dental phobia are suffering from unnecessary distress around this issue. At Wexford Dental Arts, we prioritize patient comfort for an overall positive experience. There are many techniques and strategies that we can use to help calm jittery patients.

Ultimately, the consequences of avoiding dental appointments out of fear can be quite serious – not just for your smile, but for the rest of your body, too. If dental phobia has been keeping you away from the dentist, contact our office to learn about some strategies that can help you overcome this barrier.

Strategies to Overcome Dental Phobia

We may recommend a number of different strategies to put you at ease while you are under our care, including:

  • Adequate communication between dentist and patient: Some patients may be anxious based on a lack of information or a misunderstanding. When this happens, getting complete, accurate communication from the dentist that can be easily understood can resolve underlying fears.
Dental Phobia | Wexford Dental Arts | Wexford PA
  • Calming breathing techniques: Fear is sometimes a part of the fight-or-flight response instigated by your sympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing exercises kickstart the parasympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for the “rest and digest” response, and can de-escalate your anxiety.
  • Listening to music: Music can be both soothing and distracting. You can listen to a playlist of your choice during your treatment for increased comfort.
  • Taking breaks: We encourage our patients to let us know if they need to stop treatment briefly to calm themselves. We can wait to resume until you are ready.

When Sedation Can Help

If the strategies listed above don’t suffice to help you overcome your dental phobia, we can consider oral sedation. This method involves patients taking a sedative pill before coming to our office so that it can achieve the desired effects by the time of your appointment.

Because you cannot safely drive a car while under the influence of the sedative, you must arrange to have a responsible adult bring you to the appointment if you are choosing oral sedation. The medication will still have some effect after your appointment, so you’ll also need someone to get you home safely.

Sedation has benefits beyond calming anxious patients. The medications used have an amnestic effect, which means that patients have no memory of treatment after the appointment. Additionally, they alter a patient’s sense of the passage of time, which makes appointments seem quicker.

Consequences of Dental Phobia

Of the portion of the population that has some fear around going to the dentist, approximately 20 percent of them may avoid getting dental treatment, including routine care like exams and cleanings. These patients are at a greater risk for issues such as cavities and gum disease.

Furthermore, they are more likely to delay treatment until discomfort becomes intolerable, which likely means that the issue is fairly advanced and requires a more complex and time-consuming intervention.

Your smile is not the only thing that suffers if dental phobia keeps you away from the dentist. Poor oral health is associated with a plethora of other systemic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and even some types of cancer.

To protect your smile and the rest of your body, it’s important to overcome dental anxiety and get routine preventive care, as well as any other treatments that may be necessary.

Common Dental Phobia Questions

How can I calm my anxiety before going to the dentist?

Becoming aware of your anxiety is an important first step. When you recognize that you’re having anxious thoughts about an upcoming appointment, ask yourself whether they’re accurate. Take a few deep breaths to soothe yourself.

What do you do if you’re scared of the dentist?

If you have a dental phobia, it’s important to explore strategies such as breathing techniques or sedation, that can help you tolerate your dental appointments. Call our office to learn more about the options that we provide.

Why am I so afraid of the dentist?

People may be afraid of the dentist for any number of reasons. They may have heard horror stories from others who had bad experiences or had a bad experience themselves. They may feel uncomfortable and vulnerable with providers probing their mouth with instruments. Regardless of the reason behind your fear, we can use a variety of techniques to help you feel calmer while you are under our care.

Is oral sedation safe?

Oral sedation is quite safe. We prescribe the lowest dose possible to achieve the desired effect, and we monitor your vital signs while you are under sedation to look for signs of distress. Keep in mind that you remain conscious, although deeply relaxed, while under sedation so that you can respond to our commands, and your airway continues to function normally. If you have an allergy to the oral sedative prescribed for you, be sure to inform the dentist so that an alternative can be offered to you.