African woman patient of dental clinic refusing having treatment, raising her hands up

Conquering Dental Anxiety: Strategies for a Fear-Free Dental Experience  

Dental anxiety refers to any type of stress, anxiety, or fear associated with a dental setting. This common condition can range from mild to debilitating and is often accompanied by symptoms like a racing heartbeat, sweating low blood pressure, and visible distress. It affects approximately 36% of the population, with about 12% suffering from extreme dental fear.

While it can take time to acclimate to an uncomfortable setting like the dental office, you can manage your condition. Let’s look at some effective strategies for easing dental anxiety.

Communicate Your Dental Anxiety

The most important thing you can do to manage your dental anxiety better is to talk with your dentist. Friendly, caring dental staff understand the challenges that dental anxiety can cause and will work with you to help lessen your fears.

This often involves explaining each procedure step in detail so you know what to expect. Your dentist may also suggest techniques to help you feel more comfortable and relaxed during your treatment.

Arrive to Your Appointment Early

Your anxiety may rise when you feel rushed. Ideally, you want to arrive at your dental appointment early to allow ample time to adjust to your environment and ask the staff questions if needed. Also, consider the time of your appointment when scheduling. Some patients may feel less anxious in the mornings when they are more alert and refreshed after a good night’s rest.

Practice Deep Breathing

How you breathe during your dental appointment can play a key role in managing your anxiety. Deep breathing exercises are often recommended to help you feel calm, both physically and mentally.

During treatment, close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Hold for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this as needed.

Bring Along a Support Person

For people with anxiety, going to the dentist alone can be fear-inducing. However, having a trusted family member or friend to support you can help ease your worries and help you relax. Have your support person sit in the treatment room with you and softly speak to you during your appointment. This will help keep you distracted, and the voice of a trusted friend can be soothing.

Ask About Sedation for your Dental Anxiety

Patients with extreme dental anxiety may not respond to traditional strategies for conquering dental fear. In these circumstances, sedation may be the best option. There are several sedation methods, including intravenous sedation, nitrous oxide sedation, and oral sedation.

Nitrous oxide can help “take the edge off” by assisting patients in relaxing and feeling calm. During the appointment, the patient inhales a sedative through a mask placed over the nose. After the procedure, the patient breathes pure oxygen and can return to their daily routine unaffected.

Oral sedation involves the ingestion of an oral sedative. This is an excellent option for patients with a strong aversion to needles.

Patients with moderate to severe anxiety may benefit from intravenous (IV) sedation. Patients can rest peacefully with IV sedation as the dentist performs the necessary procedures. IV sedation is often recommended for dental anxiety patients when going through more lengthy procedures, such as surgical cleanings or dental implants.

Try Meditation or Guided Imagery to Overcome Dental Anxiety

Some patients with mild dental anxiety can ease their fears with practices such as meditation or guided imagery. Meditation can promote calmness and help the body and mind completely relax. Guided imagery involves visualizing your “happy place” or reflecting on positive or funny memories.

Schedule an Appointment with Vero Implants & Periodontics

If you suffer from dental anxiety, the team of dental professionals at Vero Implants & Periodontics can help. Our dentist in Vero Beach, FL, has helped many patients ease their dental anxiety through proven strategies and alternative techniques like sedation. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact our Vero Beach dental office at 772.569.9700.