Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dental Anxiety and Fears: Handle with Care

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Statistics show that at least one in ten Americans suffer from dental anxiety. Dental anxiety, or dental phobia, is more serious than just getting sweaty palms at the thought of going to the dentist: it's a paralyzing fear of dentists or dental treatment. If this sounds like you, keep in mind that you don't have to avoid getting the dental care you need. There are many dentists who have the tools, techniques, communication and compassion to help make regular dental visits more comfortable and relaxing for you.

Dental fear may stem from prior painful or negative experiences, feeling helpless or out of control in a dental office situation, feeling embarrassed about neglecting your teeth, or the fear of being ridiculed about neglecting your teeth. The health consequences of dental anxiety are very real and can be quite serious. In fact, if you put off dental visits, your teeth and gums can become chronically infected. This can affect your ability to chew and digest properly, affect speech patterns, and even lead to heart disease. Fortunately, there are strategies to overcome your dental angst.

Please level with your dentist about your unease, and ask for time to discuss your anxiety outside the "chair". Dentists are trained to address and work through fearfulness and patient apprehension. Through empathetic listening, thorough explanation and education, and a predetermined agreement or a "sign" for when to stop or take a break, a caring dentist can mitigate these common patient concerns:
  • Injection, pain or noise anxiety
  • A fear of gagging or choking
  • Concern that the dentist will not stop when asked, or allow for frequent breaks
  • A feeling of loss of control in the dental chair
  • A concern about being tipped back in the dental chair
  •  A lack of knowledge about treatment options and what to expect as they are carried out
  • A concern about a medical emergency during treatment, and
  • Other health issues that impact dental treatment.
There are other strategies that help combat dental anxiety. Many patients find that sedation dentistry, yoga breathing and relaxation techniques, listening to music on an mp3 player or watching TV during a visit, or undergoing therapy and hypnotherapy sessions has helped them overcome their fears. Dental anxiety is not insurmountable. A skilled and caring dentist can ensure a comfortable treatment and help instill confidence in even the most tentative patients.

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601