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How Common is Dental Anxiety?
People with dental anxiety may feel isolated in their distress, yet according to Psychology Today, 15% of patients experience it. Though a common condition, it is one that can cause potential problems. People who experience anxiety about the dentist may put off routine checkups and cleanings. This can lead to more severe dental issues requiring involved treatment. Understanding dental anxiety may help to break the destructive cycle by easing the fear.
Why patients get nervous
Patients who experience dental anxiety report similar concerns. Their apprehension may involve both emotional and physical worries.
Some patients feel shame about the state of their dental health. This may be especially pronounced if there has been a long delay in receiving dental treatment. However, dentists are professionals that have seen everything, often including much worse oral health problems.
Loss of control
A patient may feel helpless being confined to a chair and unable to talk. If claustrophobia is present, the dental experience can trigger the symptoms. Even patients who do not generally experience claustrophobia may undergo an experience similar to it during a dental appointment. Dentists who are aware of such difficulties may be able to make accommodations for the patient.
Fear of pain
The most common anxiety that patients express about a dental visit is a fear of pain. However, the dentist does not want to inflict discomfort on patients and takes every reasonable precaution to avoid it. This may involve administering special medications or using certain techniques to avoid pain.
How patients can relieve anxiety
The dentist and other staff in the office can take specific steps to calm and reassure anxious patients. However, there are also techniques that patients can use to relieve tension.
There are exercises that patients can do while sitting in the dentist's chair for anxiety relief. One technique involves a conscious effort at relaxing the muscles starting from the head and working one body part at a time. Another involves inhaling and exhaling slowly while counting breaths.
Occupying the mind with something other than what the dentist is doing can help to relieve anxiety. There are a limited number of activities that a patient can perform during an examination. Some patients use imagination to visualize a place of peace and relaxation, while others squeeze a stress ball to occupy their hands or listen to music with headphones. Dentists are familiar with patient anxiety, and some provide a way to watch DVD or television shows during the appointment.
Perhaps the most important technique for dealing with dental anxiety is discussing the fears with the dentist. While expressing one's worries can be difficult at first, it can help to make the appointment easier in the long run. A patient's apprehension actually makes the dentist's job more difficult. Therefore, it is in everyone's interest for the dentist to listen to the concerns of the patient and offer possible solutions for relieving the anxiety and making the visit as smooth and worry-free as possible.
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