Dental anxiety is a condition where a patient has a phobia of dentists and dental care. Anxiety, fear and worry thoughts are involved in receiving treatment. The fear can develop from past incidents especially involving pain or stories from other patients who have had bad experiences. People can also develop the fear for what seems like no reason just as many phobias can develop. It is not an uncommon fear as almost three quarters of the population has some degree of dental anxiety. This sometimes pushes patients to wait until the last minute possible to receive care when sometimes conditions have progressed into very serious stages. Sufferers of dental anxiety are in a higher risk category for periodontal disease.
Most all patients will know if they have a dental phobia and some symptoms of a phobic patient include feeling tense before the dental visit, becoming nervous at the dentist’s office or waiting room, wanting to cry out of panic, physical sickness and a fearful reaction to dental tools being near to them. Usually a dentist will ask a list of questions to determine whether the patient is indeed suffering from dental anxiety and what specifically caused the fear. There is even a dental anxiety scale test that a patient could fill out to assess the extent of the anxiety or phobia.
Because most patients are anxious about pain, a dentist may use anesthesia. This way, the reduced pain level is tolerable and the dentist can perform his duties. Dentists will often be more gentle, slow in movements and talk to the patient in a calm and comforting manner. Behavioral and cognitive techniques can also be employed to allay a patient’s fears. Relaxation and hypnotherapy are considered very useful. Anti-anxiety medications are sometimes used such as benzodiazepines in order to calm a patient down. Even a gas mask may be used. Finally, a supportive environment both by the dental staff and the patient are important to the efficacy of getting over or at least calming dental anxiety.