There’s Hope for Dental Anxiety with Sedation Dentistry

Author: Dr. Reem Kidess | Posted on with 0 comments

Still Scared of the Dentist?

While seeing a dentist is rarely something that the average person looks forward to, it can feel downright terrifying for someone who suffers from dental anxiety. Dental anxiety – also known as odontophobia – can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the type of symptoms.

A person who suffers from dental anxiety may go several years without simple routine preventative care until they begin experiencing such intense pain that they become desperate and finally seek out options for fixing that pain. Maybe you or a loved one are in this position now and are searching for answers.

If you are scared of the dentist, you aren’t alone and there is hope for people like you who experience dental anxiety. In fact, the WHO estimates that roughly 15 to 20% of the population experiences some level of dental-related anxiety while about 5 to 8 percent will avoid the dentist completely because of their fear.

What Causes Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety isn’t just about being afraid of the drills. While it certainly can be triggered by a memory of a painful prior encounter, it could be the memory of a bad reaction to medication, fear of the unknown, or simply something in the environment that triggers anxiety.

There are times when a person may not consciously be aware of why they feel anxious in a dentist office setting; they just do. Dental anxiety looks different for each person and a quality sedation dentist will recognize that one method that works for one patient, may not be what works for another.

Intuition and empathy are two of the best indicators that you’ve found a sedation dentist who can help you.

Looking for a sedation dentist in the Paradise Valley/Phoenix, AZ region? Click here to hear what our clients are saying!

Are You Experiencing Any of the Following Symptoms?

Anxiety is typically more than just a display of apprehension on the surface. It is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system which manifests as physical symptoms. Anxiety is part of the “fight-or-flight” self-preservation reflex in our biology that historically kept humans alive when there was immediate and severe danger present.

While we no longer have the need to routinely flee from, say, a dangerous wild animal, the sympathetic nervous system remains intact and responds with the same flood of hormones, which can trigger these physical symptoms and keeps many people from seeking the care that they need. In the context of seeing or thinking about seeing a dentist, do you experience any of the following?

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Going pale, feeling clammy
  • Intestinal distress or feeling nauseas
  • Emotional sensitivity or crying
  • Low blood pressure or feeling like you will faint
  • Panic attack
  • Feeling the need to make jokes or talk out of nervousness
  • Physical ticks

These are not all-inclusive, but if you’ve picked out more than one of the above, you likely have some level of anxiety toward seeing a dentist.

Can a Sedation Dentist Help Me?

Simply explaining to a patient that they are safe is rarely ever going to cure true dental anxiety. Some dentists may feel tempted to push aside what they believe are silly fears because they don’t understand how debilitating it can be for someone experiencing anxiety.

Finding a dentist who will listen carefully and who is willing to work alongside you to discover the root (or roots) of your anxiety in connection with seeing a dentist, is essential for success.

While it is sometimes as simple as developing trusting relationships with the dental team and support staff, this solution only works for those individuals who experience a very mild level of anxiety. For many others, it is going to take a lot more than a verbal assurance of safety.

It takes a highly empathetic and intuitive dentist with the right set of skills, tools, and sensitive staff to be able to properly care for a high-anxiety patient. 

What should you be looking for in a sedation dentist?

  • Do they listen to you? Or do they assume they know what you need? A typical patient in a typical office may not need to tell their story for them to feel comfortable, but if you are scared of the dentist, then you need to feel heard. As someone who has dealt with thousands of patients over the years, I have heard many different stories. Listening to the patient tell their story gives me important clues for meeting their needs.
  • Does the office feel comfortable? For some, loud, bright, or noisy offices may add additional psychological stress into an already uncomfortable situation.
  • Is their staff friendly and accommodating? Support staff are an extension of the dentist. In sedation dentistry, it is very important that the dentist maintains friendly and empathetic staff to transition patients from the initial phone call, into the office, and all the way through to the end of their treatment.
  • What are their options for sedation? A dentist may say that they have sedation options, but you need to ask more specifically; what are those options? There are many options that fall under the umbrella of sedation dentistry, but the problem is that there is no one treatment that works for every patient. A dentist that can offer a wide variety of options, including inhalation of dentist-controlled calming gas, oral sedation (medication), and even I.V. medication, is sure to have the best chances to get you the care you need without the anxiety.
  • Do they have certifications and specialized training for persons with anxiety? This means that your dentist has earned additional credentials beyond what is required in dentistry which helps them provide better care for patients like you.
  • Do you like the dentist? Sometimes personalities clash; and that’s okay. It is important that you like your dentist and trust that you are in good hands. Empathy, along with their technical skillset, are important things to consider when choosing your sedation dentist.
  • Do they offer a virtual consultation? There are many circumstances where physically walking into a dentist office induces anxiety. Virtual visitations are important for these patients because while they may not be ready to walk themselves into a dental office, it is also just as important to put a face to the person you’re hoping to seek care with. This is one of the reasons that P.V. Smiles offers virtual consultations with potential clients. Ready to schedule your virtual consultation?
  • Does their office use state-of-the-art technology? This is also an important factor to consider. It used to be that getting a crown was a multi-step procedure, but what if you could get it done in the same day, all at once? Using old technology outdated technology also leaves a larger potential for errors which can compound the anxiety you may be feeling. Older technology means more visits, more anxiety, and less precision. State-of-the-art technology is also less invasive and offers better durability. Check out some of our state-of-the-art technology that we use to care for our high-anxiety patients.

Where Do I Start?

Start by recognizing your need for seeking dental care. Oftentimes our fears can overshadow just how important oral care is. Just like check ups with your general practitioner, oral care and routine maintenance is important for detection and prevention of permanent damage to your teeth and gums, which will eventually lead to more pain, more invasive procedures, and more money out of your pocket. Delay of treatment is responsible for a large portion of preventable dental procedures.

When you can recognize just how important oral care is for your overall health and prevention of pain, you will need to start researching and reaching out to local sedation dentists in your area for a consultation. If you recognize that you need help, but you aren’t feeling ready to make the call, see if an empathetic family member or friend can make the calls with you to gather information. There is no shame in admitting you are afraid of the dentist. I have helped many, many people in your same position and it’ is a very common phenomenon.

Once you make contact, don’t forget to ask important questions about the technology they use and the services they offer, including an initial virtual consultation, if that is what you need. Once you do visit the office in person, pay attention to how you feel when you walk inside. Is it clean? Does it make you want to run? Is the support staff warm and inviting? How did you feel about the dentist and their ability to care for you? Did you feel heard and validated?

Are You Ready to Get Help? – Paradise Valley / Phoenix, AZ 

If you experience dental anxiety in the Paradise Valley and Phoenix, AZ area and are ready to seek help, I hope that you will give us a call or fill out our form for a virtual consultation. My staff is empathetic to your needs, and we work hard to ensure each of our patients are comfortable. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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