Is Fear Keeping You From the Dentist?

Are you afraid of the dentist? You’re not alone! It’s estimated that up to 60% of the adult population in the US has significant dental anxiety. More than just being nervous about going to the dentist, people with dental anxiety are so afraid of coming in that they’ll put it off until what might have been a routine procedure (such as a cleaning) becomes a serious one (like root scaling for gum disease). It’s even worse if you have actual dental phobia. If you have dental phobia, you find just the idea of going to the dentist to be so terrifying you never go. If you have dental anxiety or dental phobia (which effects 5% to 8% of us), it’s very likely that you have serious oral health problems that need to be addressed before they progress any further.

In our Kennewick, WA practice, we offer what is called sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry helps patients with dental anxiety, and even those with dental phobia, get the care that they need.

How does sedation dentistry work? 

Sedation dentistry covers a range of technologies and methods that help patients relax while they’re in the dental chair. We offer two kinds of sedation dentistry to our patients:

Inhalation Sedation 

This is what is sometimes referred to as “laughing gas”. Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide can create a strong sense of relaxation by regulating the body’s processes. Nitrous oxide is administered through a small “mask” that only covers your nose. Tubes running from the mask are connected to a tank. Oxygen and nitrous oxide are mixed, and flow through the tubes into the mask where you breathe it in.

Contrary to popular belief, nitrous oxide doesn’t “knock you out”, it just gives you a powerful feeling of calm. Some patients may fall asleep though. Let us know ahead of time if we should wake you up or if you’d just prefer to sleep through the whole procedure!

Oral Sedation 

Oral sedation is a relatively new innovation in sedation dentistry, but it isn’t very complicated. Your dentist will give you a pill, which you’ll take an hour before your appointment. Oral sedation is somewhat more powerful than inhalation sedation, but once again, it won’t make you pass out. In both instances, you may be aware of what’s going on, only you don’t have the panic reaction you usually have during a dental procedure.

Depending on your needs, your dentist may combine oral sedation and inhalation sedation to help you relax enough to undergo your treatment.

Do I have dental anxiety or dental phobia? 

From a statistical standpoint, it’s not very likely you have dental phobia. Dental phobia drives people to completely avoid going to the dentist all together. People with dental phobia also usually have very serious problems with their teeth and gums as a result.

Dental anxiety on the other hand is much more common. If you have dental anxiety, you can at least will yourself to make an appointment and come in to get care. That usually only happens after a problem becomes so painful that it can’t be ignored any longer.

Besides avoidance behavior, signs that you might have dental anxiety can include:

  • Feelings of dread, fear, and anxiety that begin at least the night before a dental appointment. If you have dental anxiety, insomnia prior to an appointment is very common. 
  • Having a strong impulse to cry at just the thought of a dental procedure. You may also feel physically ill. 
  • Feelings of dread, fear, and anxiety that are difficult to shake, and increase as the procedure gets closer and closer. You might call these the “Waiting Room Worries”. 
  • During your procedure, your anxiety is so great that you have the sensation of suffocation. 

If you have observed these signs in yourself repeatedly, you might have dental anxiety.

What if I don’t have dental anxiety or phobia? Can I still benefit from sedation dentistry? 

Yes! If going to the dentist doesn’t bother you at all, you might still benefit from sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry can help you if you have a strong gag reflex, or if you have difficulty “numbing up” from local anesthesia. Sedation dentistry can also be useful to those who need a lot of work but want to get it done in as few appointments as possible.

Don’t Fear the Dentist! 

If you have to be afraid of something, be afraid of the consequences of not seeking the dental care you need! Going too long without seeing the dentist will result in pain, tooth loss, or worse!

Call us today at 509-591-0515, or click here to reach our online appointment form! 

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