anxious person in dentist

January 25, 2023

Everything You Need To Know About Sedation Dentistry For Anxious Patients

Dental anxiety is more common than you might think. Surveys suggest that up to 53% of people in the UK suffer from some form of anxiety about visiting the dentist.

Anxiety can come from lots of different sources, but the most common cause is a bad experience earlier in life. Whether you’re scared of the potential pain, or you hate the sounds, sights and smells associated with the dentist, the important thing to remember is that you aren’t alone.

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is also known as a fear of the dentist. This could be experienced as a slightly elevated heart rate when visiting, right up to a complete avoidance of the dentist due to fear.

Children and adults can experience a fear of the dentist, and it’s often more problematic for adults. This is because adults have to take responsibility for their own dental visits, and it’s easy to avoid something if you find it uncomfortable or scary.

There is also the risk of passing dental anxiety on to your children as they will see how visibly uncomfortable you are.

What causes dental anxiety

What causes dental anxiety?

There are many reasons you might be scared of the dentist. This could include:

  • Fear of pain caused by dental procedures

  • Fear of the instruments used by dentists, such as the drill

  • Fear of judgement, if you haven’t been to the dentist for a while

  • Fear caused by a previous bad experience with a dentist

  • Fear of a loss of control

  • Fear of being touched

Sometimes, the cause of your fear isn’t entirely known, and you might simply have the feeling that you should avoid the dentist. However, avoiding the dentist can allow small problems to become much more serious, and this can mean that you need more extensive treatment, which can be more daunting than the initial check-up.

What can be done to treat dental anxiety

What can be done to treat dental anxiety?

The good news is that dental phobia is very treatable if you are ready to put in the work. A good dentist will also work with you to overcome your fear and allow you to approach a dentist appointment with confidence.

The first step to overcoming your dental anxiety or phobia is to determine just how severe it really is. Are you able to call the dentist and book an appointment or is this too much to handle? Are you able to go to the dentist for your appointment or do you cancel or fail to show up?

If possible, call your dental practice and let them know you are a nervous patient. They can help you to build up to a full dental check-up, and this could start with just sitting in the waiting room and absorbing your surroundings.

Your dentist can then meet you in the waiting room to talk about your oral health and put you at ease. Getting to know your dentist can help you to feel more comfortable and confident.

Next, you can build up to going into the treatment room and sitting in the chair. This kind of slow build up and exposure therapy will help you to identify what is causing you anxiety so you and your dentist can work together to overcome it.

How does sedation dentistry work

How does sedation dentistry work?

Sedation is an option for long procedures, and for those with a dental phobia. We use oral conscious sedation to help patients to feel more relaxed and at ease.

Since sedation dentistry requires more monitoring, and you’ll need to arrive earlier than your appointment and stick around for longer afterwards, we wouldn’t recommend it for routine checkups or short procedures.

However, it can be useful during long procedures, whether you have a dental phobia or not. You will arrive at the practice around one hour before your procedure and we’ll run through a checklist to ensure you are ready for the sedation. You will be given a pill to take and then you can sit in the waiting room while it takes effect.

Oral conscious sedation won’t put you to sleep, but it may make you feel more sleepy. Some people find they are able to drift off during their procedure, but they can easily be woken with a tap on the arm. It isn’t the same as anaesthesia.

You will still be numbed throughout your procedure so you won’t experience any pain. It might feel like the procedure goes by much more quickly than without sedation. And after the procedure, you are unlikely to remember many of the details of what happened.

How long does it take for conscious sedation to wear off

How long does it take for conscious sedation to wear off?

You will need someone to take you home and stay with you after the procedure. You will likely feel sleep when you get home and might want to sleep off the effects of the sedation. Most people feel like themselves again around 12 hours after they have taken oral conscious sedation, but you might have a slight headache.

If you’re interested in learning more about sedation dentistry to help you with your fear of the dentist, get in touch to book a consultation today.

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