You know you need to see your dentist twice a year, but is anxiety keeping you out of the chair?
So, why the fear of the dentist? People are anxious about dental visits for different reasons. Some anticipate pain. Others worry that the dentist might not hear or may neglect their concerns. Additional uncertainties include negative memories of past experiences and even the negative experiences of other people they know. Sometimes, simply interrupting the normal day’s routine for a dentist visit creates anxiety.
No matter how scary going to the dentist might seem, it’s so important to schedule routine appointments. Examples of what happens when you skip the dentist include:
- Plaque and tartar buildup
- Tooth loss
- Gum disease
- Infected teeth
- Discolored teeth
Did you know that scientists believe that there is a connection between gum disease and heart disease? It’s possible that the inflammation present in diseased gums spreads into the bloodstream and causes damage to the arteries. The evidence of a link between unhealthy gums and the heart is a significant problem since more than one-quarter of all Americans will suffer with cardiovascular disease.
If unaddressed, dental anxiety can lead to oral health problems which can, in turn, require more treatment and end up costing patients more money.
One of the most important factors in overcoming dental anxiety is good communication between you and your dentist. When you feel informed and in control throughout a visit, you’re typically less anxious. We want to hear about your concerns and help you feel comfortable and unashamed about your dental anxiety.
It’s common for people to feel anxiety when visiting a physician or dentist. That anxiety can prevent people from obtaining needed care. We want patients to know they can have an honest and open discussion with Dr Van Huffel before starting any treatment. As a health care professional, she is trained to treat patients who have anxiety. Many safe and comfortable techniques can make dental care less stressful, including the use of medication. We really do want to help people feel safe, comfortable and validated.
If you’re nervous about an upcoming dental visit, here are some ways to help you lessen your anxiety:
-Share your fears. If you’re tense or anxious, we want to hear about it. Tell us about your anxiety. When you book your appointment, tell our scheduling team member you’re nervous about dental visits. Remind Dr Van Huffel and our team about your anxiety when you arrive. Share any bad experiences you may have had in the past and ask for suggestions on coping strategies.
-Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing what is going to happen alleviates any fears of the unknown. If you don’t want to know, tell us and we will keep the conversation fun and light.
-If you experience pain even with a local anesthetic, tell your dentist. Some patients get embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don’t want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure. Talk with Dr Van Huffel about pain before it starts so she knows how to communicate with you and make it more comfortable. We are here to help you!
-Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during dental procedures. When people are nervous, they tend to hold their breath, which decreases oxygen levels and further increases feelings of panic. As in some meditation techniques, a focus on slow, regular breathing helps reduce stress levels.
-Listen to some tunes. If the sound of the drill bothers you, bring along your favorite music and earphones. We also provide earphones and televisions for a welcome distraction.
-Watch what you eat and drink, it actually matters. Avoid caffeine before a dental appointment, it may raise your blood pressure and make you feel more anxious. Try eating high protein foods which, unlike sugary foods, produce a calming effect. It’s better to have something light in your stomach.
-Let us know how you are feeling during your appointment. Empower yourself by agreeing on hand signals to communicate with your dentist. When you feel uncomfortable, signal the dentist that you would like to have a rest during the procedure. It’s perfectly acceptable to take breaks.
-Choose a low-stress appointment time. Pick a time for your dental visit when you’re less likely to be rushed or under pressure. This might mean an early morning or late afternoon appointment time.
-Ask a friend or a family member to accompany you during your appointment.
Here at Maria Van Huffel, D.D.S., we strive to keep you as comfortable and relaxed as possible. That’s why we offer sedation dentistry. This is a wonderful solution to help put you at ease during your entire appointment.
Sedation dentistry comes in a variety of different forms:
You may not have heard of nitrous oxide, but you’re more than likely familiar with its common name, laughing gas. Laughing gas is a mild form of sedation that is inhaled through a small mask over just your nose. Breathing in laughing gas will make you feel calm and less anxious for your appointment. When the nasal mask is removed, the effects of the gas will wear off in minutes. This means you can drive a car and return to your normal activities right after your appointment.
Oral Conscious Sedation
If your anxiety cannot be lessened with laughing gas, we may suggest oral conscious sedation. Before your appointment, Dr. Van Huffel will give you a prescription for an oral medication. This will not put you all the way to sleep but will put you in a moderate state of relaxation and will make your appointment feel like it has gone by very quickly. If you use oral conscious sedation, a trusted adult will need to drive you to and from your appointment.
IV sedation is the next level of conscious sedation. It is very effective in reducing anxiety and will put you in a deeper state of relaxation. This type of sedation is longer lasting in your body, so you will need an adult to drive you home after your appointment and you will not be able to return to your daily activities until the next day.
Sedation dentistry is a great way to ease any fears, phobias, and anxieties you may have about the dentist and dental appointments.
We are here to help you achieve ultimate oral health and we will hold your hand every step of the way! Anxiety does not have to keep you from having a healthy smile! Give us a call today to schedule a better dental appointment. We can’t wait to see you.
Maria Van Huffel, DDS