Overcoming Dental Anxiety: How We Can Help

October 20, 2017

If you have ever felt scared or nervous about going to the dentist, you are not alone. About 65% of patients report some level of fear of dental treatment(1).

At R Smiles Dental Practice we have vast experience in helping patients with dental anxiety or phobia. We have a great system in place to provide the best care available

  • Pain Free: Dental treatment with no pain or anxiety
  • Affordable: Most accessible prices in Liverpool
  • No waiting list: We operate a regular i.v. sedation clinic run by an Anaesthetist Medical Doctor
  • Friendly and Caring: We are Phobia registered with fully trained and experienced staff

So, what exactly is dental anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry over the anticipation of an event. Phobia is a similar feeling to anxiety although much worse and usually accompanied with significant distress.

It is not uncommon for patients to feel anxiety in relation to a dentist appointment or a dental procedure. People of all ages can experience anxiety as it is a perfectly natural reaction to an unpleasant experience (usually a past experience).

How do I know if I have dental anxiety or phobia?

If you have dental anxiety or phobia you will probably recognise having one or more of these symptoms when going to an appointment with your dentist:

  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Thinking about the dentist appointment you have scheduled for the next day
  • Feeling restless and not wanting to stay still
  • Sweaty palms
  • Cold sweats
  • Your breathing is shallow and fast
  • You feel dizzy
  • You feel nauseated
  • Fainting at the dental practice without a medical reason

Patients with dental fear, anxiety or phobia may feel nervous just from thinking about a dentist appointment. Patients will usually go out of their way to avoid dental appointments and even regularly miss the ones that were already scheduled. They may not have seen a dentist in years and once they manage to go for an appointment they cannot wait to get out!

And what are the consequences of dental anxiety or phobia?

Patients with dental fear, anxiety or phobia may have avoided the dentist for years which can result in multiple dental problems, sometimes serious ones, leading to poor oral health. This can take a big toll on the person’s self-esteem and quality of life.

Have you ever heard of Special Care Dentistry?

Special Care Dentistry is a branch of dentistry that specialises in providing care for patients with special needs. They include caring for patients with dental fear, anxiety or phobia. A dental team that includes a Special Care Dentist will certainly be able to offer the anxious patient the best care possible.

How we can help?

Effective management of fear and anxiety is an essential part of first class dental care.

A dental team that is well trained in treating patients with dental fear, anxiety or phobia can give a patient multiple options to manage their issues and make them feel comfortable during the dental appointment.

The approach used by the dental team will be different for every patient as they need to take into consideration the concerns and expectations of each individual, as everyone is different.

Without exception, the first step is a consultation with your dentist. Here the patient can share his or her concerns, fears and expectations. The dentist then has a deeper understanding of what makes the patient nervous and can devise the best path to help. It’s best that this initial consultation be as relaxed as possible. You as a patient should never feel rushed.

If the patient does not feel comfortable sitting in the dental chair or being in a clinical environment, this appointment can take place in a different room where the patient and dentist can chat comfortably.

However, if the patient is happy to go to the dental surgery and have a dental examination, even better! Dental examinations can easily be done stress-free and with very minimal discomfort. Most patients who are anxious about the dentist are able to have an examination without problems.

The majority of patients with dental anxiety will say that they fear one of the following things (1):

  • The noise and vibration of the drill (56%)
  • The sight of the injection needle (47%)
  • Just sitting at the treatment chair (42%)

These are called “triggers”. They can be defined as any equipment, procedure or situation that will trigger or worsen the anxiety felt by the patient.

In some cases, the “trigger” can be minimised or even totally avoided. This is sometimes enough for a patient to feel comfortable during dental treatment.

The time and length of the appointment can also help, as short appointments early in the morning with minimal waiting time tend to work much better for patients with dental anxiety.

A trained and experienced dentist will also be able to use different non-invasive techniques during treatment that can have great impact in the patient’s comfort and level of stress. Most of them are focused on having excellent communication with the patient and for the patient to have a sense of control over the situation at all times.

Sedation for dental treatment

When non-invasive approaches prove unsuccessful or the dental anxiety is more severe, other approaches can be offered to help the patient. These include ones with pharmacological support such as intravenous (i.v.) sedation.

Intravenous (i.v.) sedation in dentistry refers to a technique in which the use of a drug or drugs produces a state (of relaxation in the patient) enabling treatment to be carried out, but during which verbal contact with the patient is maintained throughout the period of sedation (2)(3).

This means that during sedation the patient is not fully asleep. Actually, the patient is conscious and fully able to communicate with the dentist and the team, but in such a state of relaxation that treatment can be done without distress.

However, dental treatment under i.v. sedation can only be done on patients that have been carefully examined and considered suitable for it by a fully trained team, where all members of the sedation team have the relevant knowledge and skills, in an environment with the appropriate supporting facilities and equipment in accordance to national standards and law.

I.v. sedation can be a successful option for anxious patients and most dental procedures can be done under this type of sedation. Patients feel very relaxed and usually have little memory of the procedure itself afterwards.

Treatment customised specially for you

Because all patients are different, there is no one technique or approach that fits all. This is why better and long-lasting results will probably come from the use of a combination of techniques in a way that will suit each patient best. Conscious sedation is just one of the options for the management of dental anxiety or fear.

An experienced and trained team can make a world of difference for a patient in need. With good oral health comes a new confidence in your smile and improved quality of life that can last for years to come.

R Smiles will offer you comprehensive and unique type of care. 

Feel free to contact us or book a consultation

0151 707 7840

35 Rodney St, Liverpool

L1 9EN

Article written by Dr Francesca Nasi

General Dentist, MSc in Special Care Dentistry

Adapted for R Smiles Dental Practice

See original on https://drfrancesca.wordpress.com/

Posted in Dentistry News

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