Overcoming Dental Anxiety

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For some, going to the dentist comes as naturally as tying shoelaces or buckling seatbelts--not much thought required, and no big deal. For others, however, even mentioning the word “dentist” can cause feelings of fear, apprehension, and anxiety, making it that much more difficult to cross going to the dentist off of their “to do” list.  For those in the latter description, hearing “oh, it’ll be okay” or “don’t worry, you’ll be fine”--even with the utmost sincerity-- doesn’t really make things better, and can make people feel like they need to act like everything’s okay so that they don’t appear "different" than everyone else.

The important thing to remember (note that it’s bolded!) is that no two patients are exactly alike, so there isn’t a “normal” per se. What experience has shown is that every patient has unique preferences, and that compassion and understanding goes a long way towards making the dental experience pleasant even for those with severe dental fears. Patients appreciate the comforts and attentiveness provided by a caring, experienced team- here are a few examples of what has been helpful for other patients during appointments:
• Music playing in all of the active maintenance and treatment rooms.  Some patients even bring in their own iPods for appointments, making the sound of the dental instruments an afterthought.
• Being chilly or not being able to position your neck “just right” can definitely impede relaxation during an appointment--having pillows and blankets available for those wanting to cozy up a bit during their time in the dental chair is a welcome amenity for many.
• Understanding what will be happening during an appointment can definitely help to dispel anxiety of “the unknown”.  An experienced clinical and front office team will explain things to you (not in dental jargon, hopefully!), so that there aren’t surprises either in the treatment room or with regards to financial arrangements.
• For some patients, nitrous oxide (a.k.a. “laughing gas”), is just the thing to make going to the dentist that much easier. It’s administered under the supervision of an experienced clinical team, to temporarily calm nerves, without driving restrictions for patients at the conclusion of their appointments.
• Knowing that the cost of dentistry doesn’t have to be prohibitive can offer great relief as well-- patients appreciate the variety of payment options available so that they can choose what works best for them—some patients elect to utilize CareCredit, CitiHealth, and Springstone, which have interest-free payment plans available.
• Patients are consistently impressed by the extra attentiveness and care exhibited throughout the numbing process at select offices. Some clinical teams apply a topical anesthetic to make getting “really” numb more comfortable--and, as surprising as it sounds, some dentists will wiggle the patient’s cheek while administering the anesthetic--patients (even previously-nervous ones) will attest that they “didn’t even feel a thing” while getting numb.

So, perhaps you’re ready to take the next step, but aren’t sure where to start.  The first step is to contact the dental office--to address any questions you may have, and to set up an appointment.  Along with a comprehensive examination, intraoral photos, and digital x-rays, they'll let you know what’s “going on” in your mouth, and provide information regarding available treatments.  The best thing?  It’s your mouth, and you get to choose how to proceed—professional, experienced, and caring dentists will want you to be aware of all of the options and possible outcomes with whatever you choose.

Article by
Columbia Dentist