Helping Adult Patients Overcome Dental Anxiety



It is not just children that are afraid of going to the dentist. Many adults suffer the same way. “Do I have dental problems I do not know about?”  “Will I need treatment that hurts?”  These are questions many adult patients have when going to the dentist. Anxiety about them can be a real thing. In fact, research has indicated that a fear of going to the dentist is estimated to affect 9 to 15 percent of the population.

Once they get to the dentist’s office, they are stressed from thinking about what may happen and for them, being able to relax becomes a thing of the past. This can make a dentist’s work more difficult and in turn, procedures may take longer. This is why it is good for dentists themselves to learn how to help their patients overcome dental anxiety. After all, most of the time all it takes is patience and an understanding of why their patients are so scared.

Why do people fear the dentist? 

People are afraid of going to the dentist for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it is as a result of a traumatic experience as a child. Other times they are embarrassed because they have neglected their teeth. It can even be due to dentophobia, a phobia that causes them to be afraid of dentists for no good reason just like others are afraid of needles or clowns.

How to deal with a patient that is anxious 

The first step is to ask them why they are afraid. Sometimes talking about it before the procedure can help, especially if you listen and show you care. There are also certain techniques that can help a patient relax, before you even start their procedure. Some suggestions are providing patients with a distraction such as listening to music or watching T.V, breathing exercises, and aromatherapy.

Be on time 

Anxiety usually gets worse the longer a patient has to wait. Provide a warm, welcoming waiting room and Make sure you schedule appointments with enough time between each to take into account possible emergencies. That way you are not going to have a patient sitting in the waiting room feeling more and more terrified as the minutes tick by.

Collect the patient and talk 

Go to the waiting room and greet every patient yourself, then walk them to the treatment room while having a short, friendly conversation. This helps them relax before ever even arriving at the dentist’s chair.

Allow the patient to choose 

People tend to feel less anxious if they feel as though they are in control. Give them something to choose when they arrive in the treatment room, whether it is the color of the bib they will wear to protect their clothes or the chair they will sit in when they first arrive.

Laser dentistry

Laser dentistry is a modern technological advance that often makes treatment times shorter, thus leaving patients less anxious. It can be used for gum work, benign tumors, fillings and a whole host of other treatment options.

Alleviating anxiety through sedation

While your dentist will always endeavor to make your time in the chair as comfortable as possible, relaxation techniques may not be enough. For some patients, the experience can be slightly more nerve-racking and they may need additional aid.

Sedation dentistry treatments, like the ones used in Colorado by Centennial dentist Dr. Daniel Butterman, uses medication to help the patient relax without the use of needles, leaving them calm yet also conscious enough to be able to respond to your questions or requests. Dr. Butterman says “this is a wonderful way to help patients get the treatment they needs without the accompanying anxiety.”

Types of sedation dentistry include

Nitrous Oxide – This is the main method used in sedation dentistry. It is administered through a mask that is placed over the nose. Once the gas has taken effect, patients will find themselves in a state of relaxation.

Oral Sedation – For oral sedation, a patient will take a small sedative pill about an hour before they come in for their appointment. This will help them feel relaxed and drowsy during their treatment. When the procedure is complete, the patient will be gently awakened and will have no memory of the treatment.

Dental phobia is common among people of all ages. It leads to a great deal of stress and the consequences can be devastating to a persons oral health. By helping a patient cope with their fear either through relaxation techniques or providing sedation dentistry, you will be sure to have a patient for life and someone who is very likely to tell their friends and family about your care.