Having a fear of the dentist is extremely common, but dental anxiety is something else entirely. This isn't just being uncomfortable or slightly afraid of the dental procedures; it often includes severe panic episodes that ultimately cause the person to not visit the dentist, which then affects their health if they put off visits for too long. Here are some ways you can handle your dental anxiety so you don't put off necessary treatment.
Try to Determine the Cause of the Anxiety
The first thing you can do is look for the actual cause of the dental anxiety and try to address that cause. For example, some people have anxiety purely due to an intense fear of the pain. This person might have had a bad experience that is leading to this fear.
Some other things that might cause dental anxiety include a fear of the injections, fear of side effects from anesthesia, and fear of being a dental chair without the option of escaping. Having a dentist you trust and feel comfortable with can also be a huge help in deciding what is truly bothering you so you can deal with your anxiety properly.
Practice Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
Many people with anxiety find some relief when they practice their breathing or find other relaxation techniques that work. Not all techniques work for everyone, so you should try them before you are meant to visit the dentist. One good exercise is a breathing exercise that uses a measured breath. Relax your entire body from head to toe. Breathe in through your nose, counting to four, hold the breath, then let it go and count to seven. Continue doing this for several minutes when you are feeling anxious. If you are having severe panic, try counting backwards from 100.
Take Anti-anxiety Medications
Don't hesitate to ask your dentist for anti-anxiety medications before certain procedures. Many dentists are willing to prescribe you an oral sedative to help you relax the night before the appointment and the day of the appointment. If you experience frequent anxiety and panic attacks, you might want to consult a doctor about getting an ongoing prescription for anti-anxiety meds. Some medications that are good for anxiety include diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepan and clonazepam. These are in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines.
Ask for Sedation Dentistry
Your last option for dealing with a dental appointment when you have anxiety is to get sedation dentistry. Dentists give you either oral sedation or inhaled sedation to help you relax and get through the appointment without too much trouble. Inhaled sedation is very minimal and usually with nitrous oxide. This offers short-term effects, so once you remove the face mask, you feel back to normal almost immediately. With oral sedation, you need to have someone drive you, since it doesn't wear off as quickly.
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