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How to Cope with Dental Anxiety

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Close up of women with dental anxiety at dentists office

Visiting your dentist regularly is important to keep your teeth and gums healthy, but it’s also an important step in maintaining your overall health. But sometimes dental anxiety can keep some people from going to the dentist as often as they should.

If you’re uneasy about visiting the dentist, you’re not alone. Dental anxiety is a common problem! In fact, The Journal of the Canadian Dental Association reports that as many as 22% of people experience dental anxiety.

At Shawnessy Dental, we understand that visiting the dentist can be unsettling. But if you’re someone whose nervousness extends beyond being mildly unsettling, our team is here to help.

Keep reading to learn more about dental anxiety, how it can affect your oral health, and tips for coping. 

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a condition that causes extreme discomfort, nervousness, fear, or even panic at the thought of visiting the dentist. Dental anxiety will manifest differently in everyone and can be caused by a variety of factors, including: 

  • Fear of pain
  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • Fear of needles, anesthesia, or side effects 
  • History of generalized anxiety disorder
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Trust issues or being uncomfortable with invasion of personal space 
  • Fear of anesthesia not working

If your dental anxiety is stopping you from visiting the dentist, it’s important to understand why. Knowing what causes your anxiety can help you find a good coping mechanism so you’re able to visit the dentist regularly. 

How Does Dental Anxiety Affect Your Oral Health?

If you’re anxious about visiting the dentist, you might allow too much time between scheduled appointments, or stop making appointments altogether. 

During regular dental exams, a dentist can detect cavities, signs of gum disease, and other oral health concerns. Then, when it’s time for your teeth to get cleaned, your hygienist will remove any debris or built-up plaque, keeping your teeth healthy and white.

If you don’t see your dentist enough, they might miss the early signs of issues which can lead to a bigger problem down the road. A lack of professional cleaning can also cause problems, like increasing your risk for gum disease, or other issues like bleeding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath.

Tips of how to cope with your dental anxiety

Tips for Coping With Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety can affect anyone, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you have dental anxiety, the first thing you should do is communicate your concerns to your dentist. 

At Shawnessy Dental, we will always take the steps to make your experience easier. We can explain each step from start to finish, so you know what to expect, and can recommend techniques to help you feel more comfortable during your appointment. 

Some of the tips we recommend to our patients include: 

Explore Calming Exercises 

Calming exercises can help you relax and can help you feel calmer. To reduce stress during your appointment, you can try: 

Use a Distraction 

If you’re distracted during your appointment, you might focus less on what’s happening around you. If you have dental anxiety, talk with your dentist beforehand to let them know you’d like to use a distraction method.

Most dental offices have a TV you can watch during your appointment, but you can also bring along headphones to listen to music or a podcast. 

Bring a Friend

The support of a friend or a loved one might help you feel less anxious or stressed during your appointment. Having someone you trust in the exam room with you might help you feel more safe, comfortable, and relaxed.

Try Anxiety-Relieving Medication

If you have a more serious case of dental anxiety, you can talk to your family doctor or dentist to see if you could benefit from anxiety-relieving medication. If you need it, your doctor or dentist can prescribe a short-acting anti-anxiety medication to help lessen anxiety before an appointment. 

Ask Your Dentist About Sedation

For patients with dental anxiety, Dentists can use nitrous oxide or oral sedatives to calm your mind during a procedure. Talk to your dentist before your next appointment to see if this is something that would work for you! 

Happy patient sitting at chair of dentist ready for dental operation on teeth

We’re Always Here to Help You

If you need help coping with dental anxiety, our team is here for you. 

We will always go above and beyond to make you feel safe, comfortable, and well taken care of. Our skilled dentists and hygienists can explain every step of your appointment to you, give you time to relax during your exam or cleaning, and make any other arrangements you need. 

Book an appointment today or call us with any questions.

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