Dealing With Dental Anxiety: Strategies for a Stress-free Dental Exam

Dental anxiety is the stress or fear associated with dental treatment leading to avoiding or delaying dental treatment. This anxiety can have severe repercussions on an individual’s oral health. People with dental anxiety fear things such as drills, needles, or the dental environment. If you deal with dental anxiety, learn strategies for a stress-free dental exam. 



Suffering From Dental Anxiety 


Many people suffer from dental anxiety. For some, it is a mild feeling based on perceived pain; for others, the anxiety is irrational and severe. There are various reasons why people experience dental anxiety. 


This could be due to mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, or general anxiety disorder. A previous dental experience or history of head or neck trauma can increase the risk of dental anxiety. 



Dental Anxiety and Oral Health 


Regular dental checkups, professional teeth cleaning, and preventative treatment are crucial for oral health. Dentists can look for signs of oral cancer and other diseases and help prevent them. 


Dental anxiety can make it difficult to get essential treatment. It can result in worsening dental issues, increasing the need for complex or emergency procedures. Staying away from the dentist results in a vicious cycle of severe anxiety. 



Signs of Dental Anxiety 


People who suffer from dental anxiety experience various symptoms, including:


  • Palpitations or racing heartbeat

  • Visible distress or signs of panic

  • Extreme sweating

  • Low blood pressure

  • Fainting (syncope)

  • Withdrawal or aggression

  • Crying


Dental anxiety can affect individuals of any age. People with dental anxiety may avoid dental appointments and even simple dental treatment.  



How to Manage Dental Anxiety 


There are ways to manage dental anxiety. If you experience it, talk to your dentist about your feelings and discuss the triggers. The dentist can help you to come up with an effective management plan. 


Some effective coping techniques include sedation, meditation, distraction, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis, and guided imagery. You can agree with your dentist on signals to stop and take a break.



Strategies for Stress-free Dental Exams


You may benefit from medical management during dental exams if you have severe dental anxiety. Dentists recommend various options depending on your level of anxiety. Options include:


  • Anxiety relieving medication. Doctors and dentists often prescribe oral medications, such as temazepam, which can help patients relax.

  • Relative analgesia (laughing gas). Breathing nitrous oxide helps people relax during dental treatment. You remain awake but feel relaxed throughout the procedure.

  • Conscious sedation. Dentists with training in sedation or anesthetists usually administer the sedation intravenously (through IV).

  • General anesthesia. Some patients require general anesthesia before treatment. The anesthesia is performed in a hospital setting and involves the patient being “asleep.”


Your dentist will recommend the best option depending on the treatment and your health condition. One bad dental experience in childhood can lead to dental anxiety throughout an individual’s life. Dealing with anxiety at an early age can help stop the vicious cycle. Visit a dentist who will understand and help you cope with your condition.


For more information on strategies for a stress-free dental exam, visit Today’s Family Dental at our office in Tampa or Lutz, Florida. We can help you have a positive and pleasant dental experience. Please call (813) 212-8700 to schedule an appointment today.

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