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Boise Dentist Blog

The professional blog of Doctors Dan Bruce, Steve Bruce, Rosa Pothier and Rob Ririe

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Some people would do just about anything to avoid a visit to the dentist. Even though dental procedures generally aren't painful, just being examined can make people feel stressed. Most people can live with having some dental anxiety, but for those with dental phobia, the thought of a dental visit can be terrifying.

1. What is dental anxiety or phobia?

Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common conditions. It has been estimated that up to 20% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear.

Dental fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat or danger. It includes negative thoughts and physiological changes such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shaking, shortness of breath or a tight sensation in the throat. Dental phobia is a more serious condition and manifests as an intense fear, dread, and even panic. At the extreme, a person with dental phobia may never see a dentist.

2. Why is it important for people to seek help for their dental phobia?

People with dental phobia have a higher risk of gum disease and early tooth loss. Avoiding the dentist may have emotional costs as well. Discolored or damaged teeth can make people self-conscious and insecure and often leads to a loss of self-esteem.

People with dental phobia also may suffer from poorer health in general, and even lower life expectancy. This is because poor oral health has been found to be related to life-threatening conditions such as heart and lung disease.

3. What is the treatment for people with dental anxiety?

Dental phobia is treatable. A critical aspect of treatment involves creating positive dental experiences. This starts with opening up the lines of communication. Sharing your questions and hesitations beforehand helps our dentists lessen your fear of not knowing what is going on, as well as create a sense of trust and understanding.

You can also feel more in control if you take part in decisions about your treatment. Our dentists will clearly discuss with you what procedures you may need. Techniques such as agreeing on a hand signal if you need a break for any reason can also help you feel more in control and safe during your appointment.

Music, TV, pillows, and blankets are small additional ways to help calm you and make your appointment a comfortable and relaxing experience.

Finally, sedation dentistry is a great tool available to help in treating patients with dental anxiety. Both of our offices offer sedation dentistry in Boise, Idaho.

4. Are there different types of sedation used during dental appointments?

Yes, there are various options depending on the level of anxiety and patient preference.

Probably the most common form of sedation in the dental office is nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas." Nitrous doesn't put you to sleep, but can be effective at reducing your anxiety about a dental procedure. It is very safe and used often in our office.

The next type of sedation comes in the form of a pill or liquid that you take orally, such as valium, which helps to calm and make you less aware and nervous about and during the procedure.

Intravenous or IV sedation is another common method of anti-anxiety where the sedative is given through an intravenous site. This technique will allow the dentist to provide a deeper sedation. This is conscious sedation, so you may still be awake but you will be significantly less aware, more relaxed, and often have no memory of the appointment afterwards.

General anesthesia is a form of sedation where you will be completely asleep and intubated for the entire procedure and is usually done in a hospital setting.

5. Do dentists need additional training to offer sedation services?

All of our dentists and hygienists are qualified to administer nitrous oxide. Other types of sedation require additional training, equipment, and emergency supplies. Idaho, as in most states, requires dentists to have a sedation license to perform these techniques. Our dentists can provide oral sedation, and Dr. Rosa Pothier is specially trained and licensed to offer IV sedation dentistry in Boise, Idaho.

The first step to overcoming dental anxiety is making the initial exam appointment. Please let us know how we can help!