April 24, 2017
You shouldn’t be embarrassed if you have a fear of the dentist. Less commonly known as “odontophobia”, it’s perfectly normal to have a fear of the dentist’s office. In fact, it is estimated that around 75% of adult Americans have a fear of the dentist, so you’re not alone.
However, just because other people are like you in their fears of the dentist doesn’t mean you’re experiencing fear for the same reasons.
The good news is that there are only so many reasons people experience those heart palpitations and sweaty palms as they walk into the dentist’s office.
And many of those can be allayed through any number of solutions, including breathing techniques, bringing a trusted friend or family member, or even therapy. However, there is another option out there for anyone afraid of the pain and discomfort associated with the dentist: sedation dentistry.
That’s what we’re going to look at today. So read on to learn about the four reasons sedation dentistry can help you with your fear of the dentist!
This might feel like the most obvious reason that sedation helps with a fear of the dentist, but it needs to be said: sedation helps to alleviate your anxiety. This can be as simple as some minor sedation caused by a light dose of nitrous oxide, also referred to as “laughing gas”, or as something more complete in its sedation like intravenous (also known as IV) sedatives.
Regardless, having your nerves calmed can be enough to make your visit to the dentist less of a scary experience and more of a mundane, if not totally pleasant one.
Sometimes people have a healthy, non-psychological fear of the dentist, and that can be due to a heightened sensitivity to pain. While it may not be fully understood why that is, some of us just have more sensitive nerves and reactions to physical stimuli, which can include dental procedures from dental planing to something as simple as a routine cleaning. This sensitivity can even give us a bad gag reflex, another inconvenience for the dentist as they’re trying to keep our teeth healthy.
That’s why sedation can help, since it can numb the pain more effectively than a local anesthetic. While certainly physical and real, pain is also largely psychological in that we anticipate it, thus making it a lot worse.
Oral sedatives and anti-anxiety medications like Valium, Xanax, and Halcion can be effective in calming those nerves like we covered before, and they can also make us feel more numb to physical stimuli.
One aspect of going to the dentist that can really heighten the fear you feel can be the fact that sometimes we have to lay back in those chairs for a long period of time. Some patients experience gradually increasing anxiety as the length of time that it takes to complete the procedure grows. Nothing makes anxiety worse than the slow progression of time, making you live with your fears longer than you may be able to. This is another area in which sedation dentistry can really help.
Light and moderate sedations like we’ve covered in the last few things we discussed in this article (laughing gas, oral, and IV sedation, in those cases) can definitely help with this.
However, sometimes our fear is acute enough that our dentist might recommend a deep sedation or outright general anesthesia. This puts you to sleep entirely, and when you wake up, you won’t have any memory of the procedure whatsoever—which eliminates the possibility of the procedure having a traumatic effect on you.
Children, especially those with special needs, can benefit greatly from this type of sedation dentistry, ensuring excellent dental health regardless of your child’s fear, anxiety, or inability to remain calm and sit still at the dentist.
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been covering several different forms of sedation available when using sedation dentistry. That in and of itself is a benefit when it comes to allaying any fears we may have while going to the dentist’s office. In fact, some people develop heightened anxiety related to the dentist because of the sedation!
The adjustability and flexibility of the types of sedation available can address these fears, whether it’s a fear of being unconscious or simply a fear of needles. If you need sedation to calm your nerves, but have a fear of being placed in an unconscious state, you can opt for an oral sedative or moderate IV sedation. Or if you’re afraid of needles, you could opt for laughing gas treatments. The options are available to meet the needs of every patient with a fear of the dentist.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t just take any of these medications or procedures on your own without the supervision of your doctor. Make sure to consult with your sedation dentist and any other medical professional you trust before pursuing these methods. You’ll be able to face the dentist with confidence in no time!
Katie Londoff is an Atlanta-based writer who has been blogging about family and lifestyle issues for nearly 10 years. When she’s not brushing up against her latest deadline, she can be found walking her black lab, Oscar.