It is estimated that approximately 30 to 40 million Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of dental anxiety or dental phobia (fear of dentists). People with dental anxiety have fears that are often greatly exaggerated and overwhelming. Severe dental phobia is a more serious condition, causing those affected to cancel or avoid their dental appointments altogether. Various sedation dentistry techniques can be used to treat those who suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia.
Dental Phobia – Fear of Dentists
Many people who experience dental phobia are hesitant when visiting a dentist. They often have a fear of the office, the equipment, or the dentist themselves. Individuals that suffer from this dental anxiety frequently delay their appointments, hoping to avoid the experience altogether.
Severe Dental Phobia
Dental anxiety can also turn into severe dental phobia, making a dental appointment an overall horrific experience. People with severe dental phobia are terrified and panic-stricken when it comes time to see the dentist and they often avoid the dental appointment completely. If they do force themselves to go, they usually do not sleep the night before or may become sick in the waiting room.
Many patients with severe dental phobia have put off dental treatment for years because of their fear of dentists, resulting in poor oral health. Individuals suffering from dental anxiety or severe dental phobia commonly have infected gums and teeth, severely compromising their ability to chew and digest food properly. Many also lack self-confidence and feel insecure because of bad breath or an unattractive smile.
If you have a fear of dentists, including severe dental phobia or dental anxiety, there are several dental sedation techniques that can help. Finding a dentist in your area is the first step to controlling this condition and obtaining a beautiful, healthy new smile.
Treating Children Who Fear the Dentist
Some children have a deep-seated fear of dentists, making dental appointments a traumatizing experience. However, it is important that children have regular dental checkups. There are tips for dealing with children who have dental anxiety or severe dental phobia, including:
•Start dental checkups at an early age, so the child will be comfortable and familiar with dental appointments.
•Enforce good oral hygiene, so trips to the dentist are minimal.
•Be careful not to convey your fears of the dentist to your child. If not addressed during younger years, dental anxiety can develop into severe dental phobia as one gets older. To prevent bad oral hygiene later in life, the above suggestions can work to calm your child’s fear of dentists.
Sedation Dentists for Special Needs Patients
The physically or mentally disabled and the elderly often have special needs when it comes to extensive dental work. It can be difficult for some patients to remain still in the dental chair for long periods of time, and the procedures and setting may be frightening or disorienting. A qualified sedation dentist is aware of the special needs of patients and is able to deal with dementia, fatigue, irritability, or ill health.
Dental Sedation Methods
Dental sedation is a technique that can be used when a patient suffers from dental anxiety or dental phobia. Depending on the extent of the anxiety or phobia, varying degrees of dental sedation can be utilized, including conscious sedation with sedatives, inhalation nitrous oxide sedation, and intravenous (IV) sedation. These sedation dentistry techniques enable patients - who might otherwise avoid the dentist - to receive dental treatment necessary for a healthy smile.
Types of Dental Sedation
There are four types of dental sedation methods used by sedation dentists today:
Oral sedative medications such as diazepam can be given to a patient the night before a dentistry procedure or 30 minutes to an hour before the dental appointment, depending on the severity of the anxiety. Oral sedatives do not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered.
Intravenous (IV) Sedation
Like oral sedatives, intravenous (IV) sedation does not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered in conjunction with this method of dental sedation.
Nitrous Oxide Sedation
In one form of conscious inhalation sedation, nitrous oxide gas (also known as laughing gas) is used to induce a state of relaxation. A local anesthetic will be administered in combination with nitrous oxide sedation to eliminate pain.
This method of dental sedation refers to the use of anesthetic to render the patient unconscious. Unlike other sedation methods, the patient will be completely unaware of his or her surroundings, making the use of local anesthetic unnecessary.
Is Sedation Dentistry Right for Me?
Sedation dentistry offers a safe and effective way for patients to overcome their fears and other dental issues so that they can get the treatment they need to maintain oral health and avoid major dental problems. Read the sections below to find out if sedation dentistry is right for you.
Candidates for Sedation Dentistry
Are you a person who avoids having dental work done because you have a strong aversion to dental treatment? If so, you are not alone. Research shows that the most prevalent reason people put off visiting the dentist is dental anxiety. While your feelings are understandable, delaying dental treatment can cause relatively minor dental problems, such as gum disease, to become major dental issues that require extensive intervention. With the option of sedation dentistry, you can overcome your anxieties and get the treatment you need. Even procedures such as root canals can be non-traumatic. As an added benefit, sedation dentistry allows patients to combine multiple procedures into one or two visits, saving time and limiting inconvenience.
While sedation dentistry is not for everyone, it may be the answer you've been seeking for yourself or a loved one. Sedation dentistry could be right for you if you exhibit any of the following:
•Difficulty Getting Numb
•Complex Dental Issues
•Dental Phobias – Fear of Needles
•Limited Time to Complete Dental Work
•Traumatic Dental Experiences
•Difficulty Controlling Movement*
*Patients with cerebral palsy or Parkinson's disease sometimes are unable to control their movements. This can impede these patients from getting the dental care they need. Sedation dentistry can relax a patient so that involuntary movements don't interfere with dental work.
There are several sedation dentistry methods available. When you choose a sedation dentist, ask about the sedation dentistry techniques they offer and what steps the dentist takes to ensure not only your comfort but also your safety.
Who is NOT a candidate for sedation dentistry?
Patients who have a medical condition should notify their dentist about the condition prior to a sedation dentistry procedure. Patients should also notify their dentist about any medications they are currently taking. Any previous allergic reactions to medications should also be reported to the sedation dentist.