Strategies for Overcoming a Phobia: Going to the Dentist
There are lots of different names for it: dentophobia, dental anxiety, odontophobia, or dentophobia are just a few of them. It’s perfectly natural for people to feel some apprehension about an upcoming dentist appointment. After all, phobias are simply fear of what we cannot voluntarily control. The feelings we experience can be out-of-proportion to the actual situation. Unfortunately, avoidance is how many people deal with their phobias. Skipping routine preventative dental care because of a fear of going to the dentist can only complicate matters if teeth go neglected, becoming even more difficult to clean when the patient finally gets around to it or can no longer put it off.
At our Chattanooga dentist office, Alani Dental Center, we make every effort to help our patients relax and actually enjoy the experience of going to the dentist. We’re proud to say that our patients frequently mention how much they appreciate our efforts to relieve their anxiety.
Creating a Comfortable Environment for Patients Afraid of Going to the Dentist
When a patient enters our office on Gunbarrel Road, they are greeted by our friendly receptionist and encouraged to help themselves to water, coffee, and a snack, if needed, ahead of their appointment. It’s always a good idea to come a few minutes early and get acclimated to one’s environment. There are magazines to browse, and the view from our fourth-floor office is spectacular.
When the hygienist calls for a patient, they come back to one of our stations, where the view from the large windows is equally stunning. We happily do a variety of things to make our guests comfortable and help them relax, including a warm neck rest, a blanket, and a pivoting flat-screen TV for watching favorite programs, including Netflix and Hulu shows, along with music channels, YouTube, and Pandora. The screen can be maneuvered from high above so the patient can comfortably watch without straining. The patient can wear headphones during a cleaning or dental procedure, adjusting the sound as needed to communicate with the hygienist and doctors at Alani, otherwise getting lost in distraction while sitting in the dental chair.
Chattanooga Sedation Dentistry
Minimizing pain is central to patient comfort. Gel compression masks are available to reduce any discomfort. Fear of needles is called “trypanophobia”, and it doesn’t just impact dental patients. Through the miracle of modern dentistry, we can offer needle-free anesthesia to most people using the Kovanaze Nasal Anesthetic (you experience the sensation of a light mist of water in the nose, followed by a numbing of the teeth, minus the temporary paralysis of the mouth that patients may remember from visiting the dentist in the past).
Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is also available on request. It is a safe and effective way of reducing dental anxiety, raising a patient’s pain threshold while under the carefully monitored influence of an inhaled gas. You should tell your hygienist the basics of your medical history, including current medications, any previous adverse drug or anesthesia reactions, and whether a cold or congestion may compromise the airway. You definitely want to let us know if you take a sedative prescribed by a medical professional for anxiety before your dental appointment to avoid the risk of oversedation.
The Human Touch
The human component matters just as much as any tools and gadgets we have at our disposal, and our staff at Alani Dental Center understand that knowing what to expect can alleviate much of the dental anxiety that patients may feel. We offer compassionate care and attempt to fully answer any and all of your questions. The last thing we’d do is be dismissive of your concerns and fears.
15 Tips for Getting Through a Dentist Appointment
If you are not an Alani patient and just want to know some quick strategies for getting through a dentist appointment at a setting where none of these comforts are available, we offer a few tips:
- Many people dread going to the dentist because of negative or traumatic past experiences. If a previous dentist did something to cause distrust, remember that the past does not necessarily equal the present and try a different dentist. Choose a Chattanooga dentist with the patience and temperament to treat fearful patients with the care they deserve. Patients are welcome to visit the office and talk to our staff before the first appointment to ask questions and understand the work to be done on teeth.
- When searching for a new dentist, ask your friends and family for recommendations. Read reviews from past satisfied patients for clues that a dentist knows how to deal with dental anxiety.
- Communicate your fear to your dentist so proper steps can be taken to ensure your comfort and appropriate painkilling measures used during and after a cleaning or procedure. There is absolutely no shame in admitting your dental anxiety and asking for comfort measures. A real, honest conversation about your fears helps us to help you have a better experience.
- If the sound of a drill or other dental tools is paired with a painful or uncomfortable feeling, use headphones playing music you like to minimize that sound. At Alani, we have the media mentioned above, or patients may want to play nice soothing music or a book on MP3 on their iPod. Anxiety meditations can be found online and can distract nicely from your fears.
- Try visualization if you don’t want to watch TV. Close your eyes and picture yourself in your happy place. Maybe it is sitting on a warm tropical beach. Mentally remove yourself from the situation.
- Remember that the dentist may be associated with the pain of a toothache, for example, but the end result of action is to alleviate such suffering. By making a dental appointment, you are taking action toward treating the discomfort that will only worsen if ignored.
- Count backwards from 100 slowly, visualizing the numbers. This slow, meditative counting helps many people to prevent a panic attack.
- Try relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing – taking a deep breath, holding it, then letting it out very slowly, to slow the heartbeat and relax the muscles.
- Remember that most phobias are irrational, and your actual experience may be quick and nearly painless. Sometimes the worst part is the anticipation and making something bigger in the imagination than it actually is in real life.
- Communicate concerns about your gag reflex so your dentist and hygienist can work with you to minimize the probability of you gagging. We rarely feel more helpless than when our bodies perform involuntary reactions to stimuli.
- Ask for breaks during your visit to regroup and calm yourself. You should be able to stop a procedure any time you feel uncomfortable, and the dental staff should ask for permission to continue.
- Embarrassment about the condition of teeth after putting off treatment for years can lead some to fear being judged. You should choose a dentist who will be honest about your oral health but not berate you for a situation you’re already feeling guilty about.
- For some, the source of anxiety relates to worry about the cost of dental work. Regular cleanings with your hygienist today lower the cost of treatments you’ll need tomorrow by neglecting your teeth. When facing more costly treatments, most offices will be willing to work out a workable arrangement for repayment.
- In cases of extreme dental phobia, bring a trusted friend or relative along to hold your hand during treatment and advocate on your behalf. It’s easy to get scared when you have difficulty speaking.
- For severe dental anxiety, a patient may need sleep dentistry or IV sedation. Speak with the dentist to determine whether you are a candidate for these forms of dental sedation.
Remember that Better Self-Care at Home Results in Easier Dental Appointments
A point that we always stress is the need to brush and floss daily at home to reduce the likelihood of cavities or gum disease, a serious infection that has been linked to illness like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. By taking better care of yourself in between cleanings, your actual dental appointment becomes much easier.
Failure to take good care of yourself can mean longer dental visits and more time spent by your hygienist removing plaque that has built up around teeth and gums.
We always encourage our patients when their work at home shows positive results here in the office, plus we can educate you on using electric toothbrushes, water flossing devices, and other resources for better self-care.
Make Your Next Dental Appointment the Best One Yet
Many of these anxiety relief techniques can be applied to other stressful situations in life. Modern dentistry allows us to treat our patients with much less pain and discomfort than in the past. Now you know things you can do for your next visit so it isn’t so bad. Our dentists understand your fears and want to help you have a better experience than you may have had in the past. To schedule an appointment at Alani Dental Center Chattanooga, call us at (423) 713-7333 or email email@example.com. We look forward to meeting you!
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