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One of the most common occurrences for patients who come to see the dentist, Dr. Alexander Larsen, is dental anxiety. In fact, here in the U.S., statistics estimate anywhere from 9 percent and 20 percent of patients put off having dental work done because of dental anxiety or dental phobia. So what’s the difference between dental anxiety and dental phobia?

If you have dental anxiety, you might feel stressed when it comes time for your appointment. You might also have exaggerated worries or fears around the visit, that something might go wrong, or that the treatment will be painful.

With a dental phobia, however, the intensity of fear is magnified to the point where you might be panicking. Faced with dental phobia, you might realize that the fear is irrational, but you still can’t help feeling terror around it. And unfortunately, with dental phobia, you’ll do anything to avoid this feeling, so you keep putting off going to the dentist even for routine checkups and maintenance and only give in when you are in serious pain. Ironically, at that point treatment is usually more involved, invasive, and possibly more costly. If only you were regularly seeing your dental team, you could prevent problems altogether or treat them when they are still small. You’re caught up in a Catch-22!

Reasons Patients Cite for Dental Anxiety

It might comfort you to know that you are not alone when it comes to dental anxiety. In fact, here’s a list of the common stressors:

-The number one reason patients give us for putting off treatment is fear of pain. This may arise as a reaction to a previous dental visit in your past that might have been painful, or you’ve heard one too many “horror” stories from people you know. It’s like listening to moms talk about birthing experiences; people often like to share the most unpleasant parts. But the key is to remember that dentistry has come a long way! Today’s dentistry is less painful and often even pain-free, thanks to the tools of modern dentistry.

-You might be afraid that you’ll need shots and that even when you do get them, that they won’t be effective. So now you fear that you’re getting a shot and are still going to feel pain. Needle phobia is actually a thing (fear of needles). It’s also common to fear starting the dental treatment before the anesthesia kicks in.

-Some folks when getting a shot worry about the potential side effects. You might worry about passing out, getting dizzy and or even throwing up. Some people also cringe at the numbness after effect, leaving the lips swollen until it wears off.

-Fear and anxiety have a variety of origins, but the root cause, besides pain, is feeling like you’re not in control during the treatment. You’re worried that you’ll be helpless while lying back in the chair, unable to see what’s happening in your mouth and being afraid to move.

-Another reason for dental anxiety is that someone is working in your personal space and feeling embarrassed about it, with this person hovering over you in such close proximity. You might be embarrassed about how your teeth look or that you have bad breath (don’t worry, we wear masks!).

How Do You Know If You Have a Dental Phobia?

You might have a dental phobia if:

-Just thinking about going to the dentist makes you cry and/or feel sick.

-The closer you get to your appointment date, the worse you feel, to the extent that you may not be able to sleep the night before.

-While sitting in the waiting room at the dental office you feel more and more nervous as you wait.

-During treatment, you are so stressed out that when the dentist or hygienist puts something in your mouth you feel overwhelmed or that you can’t breathe.

So now that you know whether or not you really do have anxiety or a phobia around dental work, what can you do about it? First, it helps to let our dental team know about your concerns before you come in. That will help us use our training to help you cope with your visit in the most comfortable, relaxed and pleasant way. Just talking with us can help you feel more empowered because you are being proactive and your concerns are taken seriously as solutions are offered. Knowing what will happen during each phase of your treatment can take the fear of the unknown out of the equation. It also helps you feel more prepared so that there won’t be any surprises. We also invite our patients to give us an indication that they need a break, for example, raising your hand to let us know we need to stop for a moment.

But here’s the thing, at Gentle Dental Arts we know how to help you relax comfortably during your treatment to have the most pleasant experience possible. That is why we offer oral sedation for our patients who need help feeling calm.

What Oral Sedation Means for You

With the help of oral sedation, you will find that:

1-Using this medicine is easy; we simply prescribe a pill for you to take before the procedure, and you will feel calm and relaxed by the time you get to our office.
2-A pill is no shot! So if you are needle phobic, now you don’t have to worry about them.
3-Once the pill kicks in, you will feel well and awake enough to respond to our instructions during your treatment.
4-The pill allows you to have very little – or no memory at all – of the treatment. This actually helps your recall of the treatment feel like a positive one.
5-You can rest assured that the sedative will have minimal side effects and no dangerous ones as it is FDA regulated.

Because you will still be a bit out of it, you’ll need to bring someone to drive you there and take you home safely until the medication wears off.

Our Gentle Dental Arts team in Orem, Utah, is here to help you have the best experience possible while receiving the quality care your smile deserves. We invite you to give our team a call at 801-788-4922 to learn more about oral sedation or to schedule a consultation with our dentist. We have been helping patients have positive dental experiences throughout the Utah County area, including American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, and Provo, Utah.