If you get a little nervous before going to the dentist’s office, that’s normal. Most people might feel somewhat on edge about the prospect of having someone inspect their mouth. However, if that nervousness feels intense or prevents you from seeking regular dental care, you may suffer from dental anxiety. This issue affects millions of people across the U.S. and, like most types of anxiety, can stems from a wide range of factors, from a bad experience at the dentist as a child to a generalized discomfort with clinical spaces. Luckily, you have the power to cope with dental anxiety so you can seek the professional dental care you need for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Talk to Your Dentist About Sedation Dentistry
The most effective way to deal with dental anxiety is to talk to your dentist (or your dental hygienist or even the front desk coordinator) about your feelings. Dental professionals know that many of their patients feel anxious in the dental chair and have a number of techniques they can employ to help you relax. Sedation dentistry refers to the use of anti-anxiolytics (literally, “anti-anxiety” medication) to reduce anxiety. Some of the most popular forms of dental sedation include:
You’ve probably heard of laughing gas, the more popular name for this type of dental sedation. Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry since before the Civil War. This type of sedation is delivered through a soft mask that fits over nose; as you begin to breath in the gas, it induces a sense of detachment and euphoria. Nitrous oxide is safe for nearly all patients, including children and the elderly, and its effects wear off quickly.
If you’ve ever heard the term “sleep dentistry,” this is what they’re talking about. Oral sedation refers to orally ingested sedatives that induce a profound state of tranquility during a dental appointment. Oral sedation feels much like sleep and the patient may look like they’re asleep, but they can still respond to questions and follow simple commands. Oral sedation will leave you feeling a bit groggy after your appointment but most patients report having no memory of their procedure (a big plus since memories alone can often trigger anxiety).