Dr. Andrew Koenigsberg of New York City’s [email protected] discusses ways to alleviate dental anxiety:
Dental anxiety affects up to 20% of adults and can have serious health consequences. Fear of dental treatment may keep patients from seeking or delaying care until there is an emergency, often resulting in pain and additional oral health issues. Ironically, phobic patients may wind up needing more extensive treatment than they would have needed had the problem been treated in a timely manner resulting in increased treatment, trauma and expense.
Fortunately, dental anxiety can be managed by caring professionals. Dr. Camilla Mager, a New York City psychologist, suggests that the first step is to find a compassionate dentist who is willing to “openly communicate” with the anxious patient. The dentist should understand the person’s apprehensions, be willing to take some extra time and establish signals so that the patient can use if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Dr. Mager also explains that there are self-help techniques that help reduce and control dental anxiety before getting to the dental office. People can realize that they are choosing to seek dental treatment which gives a sense of control. They should acknowledge what aspect of the treatment they fear, (embarrassment, pain, bad memories), and challenge these thoughts. They should communicate this to the dentist who can reassure them that their concerns will be accounted for in treatment.
During the dental visit, Dr. Mager suggests several meditation/relaxation techniques. Before the appointment, a patient may decide on a “brave thought” to think about and mentally repeat during treatment. There are also “apps” available such as Budhify and Headspace that teach “soothing and calming” techniques. These should be practiced in advance and can be listened to during treatment.
Medications that control and reduce anxiety are available through healthcare professionals when other techniques aren’t enough. These medications are safe when used properly and often allow people to get care they otherwise might avoid.