I treat many patients who experience dental anxiety, sometimes it stems from a less than great previous experience and other times it is because any medical visit is a source of stress. Most dentists understand and are familiar working with patients who have anxiety and have the skills to assist patients through it.
What are your options for anxiety relief?
Deep Sedation: Very few general dental offices provide deep sedation which is what puts you out completely. Typically deep sedation is offered for longer surgical procedures and is provided at an Oral Surgeon’s office or by a Dental Anesthesiologist.
Conscious Sedation: However, there are lighter forms of sedation which do not put you out completely but rather sedate you to a level that alleviates your anxiety/phobia while allowing you to still be awake. This lighter form of sedation is called conscious sedation and involves taking a medication class called benzodiazepine. I have experienced great success using this conscious sedation method with my patients who have extreme anxiety. Your dentist is able to prescribe you the medication on an as needed basis for you to pick up at your preferred pharmacy. It is important to remember that when you take a benzodiazepine you will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment.
Another form of anxiety relief comes from the use of nitrous oxide. This is the lightest form of conscious sedation. Nitrous oxide is commonly known as “laughing gas” and can provide you with a calming feeling that only lasts for as long as you are inhaling it. Using nitrous oxide will not require having someone drive you to and from your appointment.
Establishing Trust: In my practice I see many patients successfully use the forms conscious sedation I describe to help alleviate their anxiety around dental visits. Additionally, I find that one of the best forms of anxiety relief is establishing a good sense of trust with my patients. Dental anxiety is often associated with a bad or painful experience, in which trust for the dentist is lost to varying degrees. I recommend talking with trusted friends and family and visit a dentist referred to as being caring and trustworthy. Once you meet with your dentist explain your experience so they best know how to treat you to alleviate your anxiety. When you have one or more positive experiences with your dentist and begin to develop trust again your fear may decrease or even go away completely. I do not recommend that you avoid going to a dentist regularly, and going only when you are in pain because often times these situations magnify your anxiety and reinforce your fear. Regular visits allow you and your dentist to identify a potential problem before it becomes painful. If you are still unsure I encourage you to call and ask any questions you have that may help begin to alleviate your fears including (if possible) a tour of the office.
Dentists and their teams want to help you feel comfortable and are experienced in working with their patients through varying degrees of anxiety and fears. In my office our team understands how difficult it can be for a patient with anxiety to walk through our doors and find that creating a partnership and working together towards your health goals makes your dental visits less stressful.
I wish you much success in your dental journey and always encourage you to speak up and ask questions.
Dr. Mark S. Morris D.D.S.