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Are you Avoiding the Dentist?
Tips to get through your Next Dental Procedure
Have you had a traumatic bad experience at the dentist? Anxious patients cringe at the sight of the syringe and sound of the drill. They make dental appointments, and then cancel them. They get sweaty palms, feel overwhelming anxiety and have difficulty sleeping the night before their dental appointment. As patient, we have to lie back with our mouths wide open, unable to communicate – thus rendered passive and unable to see what is going on – all adding to the feeling of uncertainty and apprehension.
It is estimated that as many as 75 percent of Americans experience some degree of traumatic emotional trauma according to the text book writting by by Milgrom, Weinstein & Gets. Avoiding dentists ranges from mild feelings of apprehension to high levels of stress, emotional discomfort and full-blow panic attack.
About ten percent of Americans are considered dental phobic. The significant factor in a phobia is avoidance. These people avoid dental work at all costs. Only seeking treatment for an emergency or when in extreme pain. Teeth deteriorate to an appalling condition; resulting in low self-esteem, distancing from relationship, failure to achieve goals in life and a host of physical problems. They believe that no one understands their emotional trauma; they are embarrassed, ashamed and concerned that they are mentally unstable.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Emotional Trauma
- Difficulty sleeping the night before a dental appointment
- Difficulty breathing or feeling that you are suffocating
- Racing or pounding heat; chest pain or tightness
- Trembling, shaking
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Churning stomach, physically ill
- Hot or cold flashes, sweating
- Feeling overwhelming anxiety or panic while in the waiting room
- Intense need to escape
- Feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself
- Fear of losing control of your body or going crazy
- Feeling like you are going to pass out
- Knowing that you are overreacting, but feeling powerless to control your fear.
What causes anxiety?
People are not born anxious; the association of anxiety with dentist develops out of socialization and personal learning experiences. Those who suffer from dental anxiety are usually very competent in all other areas of their lives.
Some people have difficulty tolerating a particular dental procedure or the associated pain. “I can’t stand needles,” “I hate dentistry” or “I would rather go with a toothache than go through that drill.”
Many people feel uncomfortable, helpless and claustrophobic during dental treatment. Others feel self-conscious, embarrassed and fear being scolded about the appearance of their teeth or possible mouth odors.
We fear the unknown and worry about receiving bad news. We believe that we have a horrible cancer, disease or infection.
Many life situation are experienced as stressful or difficult. Dental fear may be predominant, but it is frequently one of several fears or phobias. This is the most common type of dental fear in patient.
Treatment of Dental Anxiety
Treatment of dental anxiety often includes a combination of behavioral and pharmacological techniques. As with any illness, dental anxious patients must take some initiative in their treatment and recovery.
The relaxed body is more comfortable, has less stress, decreased blood pressure, a sense of well-being and mastery over fear. We can learn relaxation and breathing techniques that can be called upon when needed, in day-to-day life or in the dental chair.
Behavior and cognitive therapy:
Therapy can help you uncover the underlying causes of worry and anxiety, learn how to relax, look at situations in new, less frightening ways and develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy gives you the skills to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them to accept dental care without undue difficulty.
A hierarchy of anxiety provoking situations and associated symptoms is stablished. Anxiety is reduced through gradual exposure to the identified situation, beginning with least threatening (sitting in the waiting room) and progressing to more threating (sitting in the chair waiting for the dentist too get the drill to begin treatment).
Sedation refers to the use of sedative medication to calm and relax patients prior to and during dental appointments. The degree of sedation may vary from light calming, to moderate sedation to general anesthesia. These sedation method may be obtained by two general routes. Oral sedation involves medication that are swallowed like Xanax, Valium or midazolam. The intravenous route involves the administration of sedative drugs like Versed.
Tips to get through your Next Dental Procedure
Develop a relationship with a dentist before something huts. Talk about your fears and share past experiences, ask questions about anything that worries you. Once your dentist knows about your situation, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best way to reduce your anxiety and increase your comfort. If your dentist does not take your situation seriously, find another dentist.
Stablish a signal – such as raising your hand –when you want the dentist or hygienist to stop treatment. Use this signal whenever you are uncomfortable, need to rinse your mouth or simply need to catch your breath.
Take a friend or family member along to meet the dentist, keep you company in the waiting room or for support during treatment.
THERE IS HOPE! You don’t have to live avoiding dentists. Regardless of your own personal experience, understand that your past traumation experience may have kept you from the dentist, but there is no need to be embarrassed. You can accept dental care without undue difficulty. You can reduce your anxiety level, keep appointments and your teeth, and have the confidence that a beautiful healthy smile can bring.
People are not born anxious; the association of avoiding the dentist develops out of socialization and personal learning experiences. WE CAN HELP! with Sedation Dentistry.