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What to do about dentist anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a common problem that prevents many people from having regular check-ups. If you suffer from dental phobia, it is important to know that there are many ways to counteract dental phobia. The right method can help you feel comfortable in the dental chair.

Andrea Seraina Author
Andrea Seraina
Dental Content Specialist
23.04.20238 min. reading time
Alpine White, zahnarztangst

What causes dental phobia?

There are different reasons and levels of dental anxiety. From mild anxiety to a dental phobia with sweating and heart palpitations. And why? Here are some causes:

  • Traumatic experiences: If a person has had painful, traumatic or bad experiences with dental procedures in the past, this can lead to dental anxiety. In addition, bad teeth can cause shame, and people often want to avoid going to the dental office.
  • Being at the mercy of others: Many people feel self-conscious about their mental health when they feel helpless, loss of control and are at the mercy of others. During dental treatment, you are often in such a position, which can make you feel anxious and uncomfortable.
  • Negative attitudes towards dental care: Negative attitudes towards dentistry and dental visits can be developed due to stories told by friends and family, TV programmes or films. This is how rumours and dislikes of going to the dentist develop.
  • Fear of pain and injections: Injections or needles that may be used during dental treatment also cause discomfort. In addition, the pain involved is another reason for fear of the dental experience.
  • General anxiety disorders: If you already suffer from anxiety disorders, you may be particularly sensitive to stressful situations, such as dental treatment. This can lead to an irrational fear of going to the dentist.
  • Contextual factors: Some people may have a fear of the dentist because they are associated with a particular situation, such as the sound of drills.
  • Lack of information: If a person does not have enough information about what happens during dental treatment, this can lead to uncertainty.

It is important to know that there are different steps for treating dental fear, which we will explain below.

What does the dentist do when someone has dental anxiety?

There are different strategies that a dentist can use to make your visit to the dentist anxiety-free. However, it is important that you inform the dental team before your first appointment so that they can arrange a consultation.

The first step to feeling comfortable in the dentist's chair is for the dentist to be empathetic and make the patient feel like they are in good hands. An empathetic dentist will speak soothing words to put you at ease during the dental treatment.

In some cases, the dentist may also prescribe short-acting sedatives or use mild sedation to help the anxious patient have a relaxed and pain-free treatment. For treatment without pain, a local anaesthetic may also be used to ensure dental health and prevent toothache.

Tips against dental anxiety

Here we explain various treatment steps to help you overcome your fear of going to the dentist.

Find a sensitive dentist

It's important to find a dentist you can trust and who is sensitive to your needs and fears. Ask friends and family for recommendations or search the internet for reviews and experiences of other patients. There are also dentists who specialise in dentistry for people with anxiety.

Tell your dentist about your fears

Before your first appointment, tell your dentist that you suffer from dental anxiety. This way you can discuss different techniques to make your appointment anxiety-free.

Use relaxation techniques

Relaxation exercises and autogenic training, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help make your visit to the dentist's office more comfortable.

These methods can help you reduce dental anxiety:

  • Relaxation exercises: When you relax different muscle groups in your body, this helps to reduce stress and thus distracts you from dental anxiety.
  • Breathing techniques: Focused and deep breathing can help reduce anxiety. Breathing slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth can relax the body and calm the mind.
  • Mindfulness: This technique involves focusing on the present experience and avoiding worry and negative thoughts. By focusing on the present, you can let go of your fears and worries before your dental appointment and focus on positive thoughts.
  • Hypnosis: With hypnosis, you reach a trance-like state in which your body relaxes. Your blood pressure and pulse are lowered and your consciousness focuses inward. A hypnotist can give you anxiety-relieving tips to promote confidence in dentistry.
  • Visualisation: this technique involves imagining a beautiful or pleasant experience to evoke positive associations and thus reduce anxiety. For example, you can imagine yourself walking out of the dentist's office with a bright smile after treatment.

Distract yourself with music or films

Many dental practices offer music or films during treatment to distract patients. If your practice doesn't offer this, just ask if you can wear the headphones during treatment.

Use sedation

In some cases, light sedation or conscious sedation can help reduce anxiety during dental work and calm the dental patient.

There are different types of sedation. Here are some examples:

  • Nitrous oxide sedation (laughing gas): This is a mild form of sedation where a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is inhaled through a mask. This sedation puts you into twilight sleep. The advantage of nitrous oxide is that it works quickly and disappears from the body quickly after treatment.
  • Oral sedation: This form of sedation involves taking prescribed medication in the form of tablets or capsules that have a sedative effect. The medication is taken before you go to the dentist to help put you at ease.
  • Intravenous (IV) sedation: In this type of sedation, a sedative is injected through a vein. The advantage of IV sedation is that the dentist can adjust the sedation during treatment to ensure maximum effectiveness. However, this method is not recommended for people who are afraid of injections.

In acute cases, such as root infection or wisdom teeth removal, the procedure can also be performed under a general anaesthetic. This is performed by an anaesthetist or an anaesthetic doctor.

It is important to stress that these sedation methods should be performed by a qualified professional such as an anaesthetist or an experienced dentist. Your dentist or dental hygienist can help you choose an appropriate form of sedation and treatment plan.

Familiar companion

A familiar person can give you peace of mind and confidence during your treatment. Take a good friend with you who will encourage you and make you feel comfortable. This will also make you feel that someone is looking out for you during treatment.

Make short appointments

If you suffer from severe dental anxiety, it can be helpful to make short appointments to gradually get used to going to the dentist and reduce your anxiety.

Reward yourself

After each visit to the dentist, reward yourself with something you like to do or buy yourself something nice. This way you can make positive associations with going to the dentist and reduce your anxiety.

Visit the ALPINE WHITE Studio

We highly recommend the ALPINE WHITE Studio if you suffer from severe anxiety. Our waiting rooms are modern and will not remind you of a visit to a dental clinic. Our healthcare workers like dental hygienists specialised in informing you about all steps before, during and after the treatment. As we only offer preventive and cosmetic treatments, your visit to our Studio is always pain-free. Dental hygiene is particularly gentle thanks to modern airflow technology. And did you know that ALPINE WHITE Bleaching is painless and harmless, as it contains no peroxide?

Do you have a toothache but don't want to go to the dentist? If you have dental problems, you can book an Oral Health Checkup and get advice. However, we do not take X-rays, but detect caries using special light technology. With a professional dental cleaning you not only have a clean mouth, but you can also protect yourself against dental diseases such as gum disease or periodontitis.

If you clean your teeth regularly with our products and perform dental hygiene at least once a year, you can postpone your visit to the dentist's office or even save it altogether. You will also improve your overall health. Our vision is to make healthy, white teeth possible for everyone and that you feel comfortable with us.

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