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4 Ways to Manage Your Dental Anxiety (and Get the Care You Need)

Jul 01, 2023
Severe dental anxiety affects millions and leads some to forgo essential dental care, putting their long-term oral health at risk. Learn about this problem’s origins, along with effective solutions that enable you to get the care you need, here.

Does deep fear strike your heart when you so much as think about entering the dentist’s office? If so, you’re far from alone. Dentophobia, or dental anxiety, is widespread, with 30-40 million people experiencing this dread at some point during their lives. 

The fallout from opting to skip seeing the dentist for a prolonged period — either for routine preventive care or a needed procedure, like a root canal, filling, or treatment for gum disease — can be severe. When your fear overpowers the need to get dental care, you could end up with advanced gum disease, painful untended cavities, and even tooth loss.

The extraordinary team at Plaza Dental Group is ready and able to address your dental anxiety so you can be treated in comfort. Because so many patients suffer from dental anxiety, we have worked hard to offer diverse treatments to alleviate your stress, and to make the Plaza Dental Group office in West Des Moines, Iowa, somewhere you’ll actually look forward to visiting!

What is dental anxiety?

The origin of severe discomfort at the dentist differs for everyone, but it often stems from the expectation of pain and past negative dental experiences — even dating back to childhood — that are etched in your memory, even decades later.

Some people have a deeply ingrained fear of needles and may not realize how the administration of novacaine has changed for the better. Others can’t stand having their personal space invaded or are agitated by the sights, smells, and sounds of a dental office. 

If you have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, or find it hard to put your trust in a clinician, dental anxiety is to be expected. 

Some patients are highly fearful of seeing blood or choking if they have a sensitive gag reflex, which can be stimulated by dental tools. 

What does dental anxiety feel like?

Dental anxiety manifests itself physically and emotionally. You might feel your heart race or pound (heart palpitations), sweat, or feel lightheaded. Your blood pressure might plummet. 

For some individuals, dental anxiety leads to a panic attack, which includes suffering from the previously mentioned symptoms, as well as:

  • Nausea 
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Shivering
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • An overall feeling of dread

These experiences are hellish, to say the least, which is why we’ve invested time and energy into creating a dental care environment that specifically supports those with dental anxiety.

We screen every patient for dental anxiety so no one suffers without being treated. This involves having a frank conversation about any worries you may feel coming here and getting to the root of them, so we can offer customized solutions for you. 

Our next step is to gently perform an oral exam and gather dental X-rays, both of which are painless. Throughout, we communicate with you so you know exactly what’s happening every step of the way. 

Effective management of your dental anxiety

Truly easing your dental anxiety involves teamwork between patient and dentist. Four tools for managing dental anxiety that are highly successful include:

1. Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques bring you to a calmer state and include guided imagery (a mind-body practice during which you picture a soothing scene or situation), deep breathing, and consciously relaxing your muscles.

2. Distractions 

Believe it or not, watching a movie or TV show or listening to your favorite music can go a long way toward helping you at your dental appointment. It may sound simple, but it works!

3. Sedation

There are different types of sedation you can receive here, all of which address anxiety successfully. You can be prescribed oral medication that you take before coming to see us, or we can provide nitrous oxide (“laughing gas” that’s administered through a mask that fits over your nose) or intravenous sedation. 

4. The NuCalm device

We offer a revolutionary wearable device to help with dental anxiety called NuCalm. It employs cranial electrotherapy stimulation that causes your brain waves to enter into the earliest stage of sleep. You’re totally relaxed, and NuCalm involves no drugs. Once you’ve gotten your dental care, you can remove the NuCalm device and go back to your normal life.

We have found that NuCalm’s neurological benefits extend beyond our office, because treatment has been known to improve patients’ sleep quality and soothe stress well after their dental visit.

We are dedicated to making your dental experience at Plaza Dental Group feel safe, secure, and pleasant. This toolbox helps to ensure a positive dental experience for you, even if your dental anxiety has proved to be a troublesome limitation in the past. 

Call our office at 515-224-5999 and schedule a consultation to discuss how we can help you with your dental anxiety so you can get the most advanced dental care, or request an appointment online