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Dental Anxiety


Unlike dental fear, which is known to us due to personal experiences, dental anxiety is the fear of the unknown. Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state that is characterized by several different cognitive, somatic, emotional and behavioral components. Unpleasant feelings can arise if a person begins experiencing combinations of these components, especially when it comes to dental fear. When threats are uncontrollable or unavoidable, the end result is anxiety.

For example, if you’ve received dental fillings before you know what to expect, from the pain to the procedure. But if you learn you’ll need to have a root canal, your emotions change from dental fear to dental anxiety simply because you have no idea what’s going to happen during the procedure. Anxiety can cause you to begin thinking irrationally, asking questions about other’s experiences, pains and opinions. The original issue of ‘not knowing’ has now become a full-blown dental anxiety once hearsay comes into the picture.

What Causes Dental Anxiety?

Generally, dental anxiety is brought on by negative childhood experiences and hearing horror stories about other people’s bad experiences. Keep in mind that dental anxiety is the result from an unknown fear. Even movies and TV episodes can cause us dental anxiety, especially if a restorative procedure is being done and the patient is playing on the fears of the viewers.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

In order to overcome dental anxiety, the patient must face their fear. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Just thinking about an upcoming dental appointment can cause anxiety. So how do you overcome it? Well, first it’s important to understand that you can not fully or completely get over your anxiety, but you can do things to reduce it.

The first thing you should do is consult with your dentist about your fears and anxieties. Making your dentist aware of your situation can allow them to handle dental visits, exams and procedures with extra care. Dentists have come up with new ways to help patients get over their dental anxieties before, during and after an appointment.

Treating Dental Anxiety

Because dental anxiety is different than fears or dental phobia, there are methods dentists are using to help their patients. For example, Valium is a popular muscle relaxer that can be prescribed by your dentist before an appointment to help you relax. Other times dentists wait until you arrive for your appointment to use nitrous oxide to help you relax. The nitrous gas is mixed with oxygen and administered after arriving at the dentist. There are treatment centers available that can help a patient control their dental anxieties.

Page updated March 2011



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