Dental anxiety is a common issue among dentists; patients who are unable to or are resistant to treatment often have fears associated with dentistry resulting from the complex nature of their memories and ideas related to the dentist. As a universally recognized issue, what lies at the core of these fears often occur on an individual basis and require personalized attention towards these matters. We’re here to look at the fascinating correlations between dental anxiety and oral health and show how we as dentists alleviate these fears in patients.
How Dental Anxiety Impacts Oral Health
One of the most common symptoms of dental anxiety is avoidance. Patients who often experience dental anxiety often have other symptoms aligned with avoidance, such as higher sensitivity to thoughts of visiting the dentist and experience higher levels of pain when at the dentist, among other physical, emotional, and behavioral responses. Researchers that have assessed these fears have shown that dental anxiety has a drastic impact on long-term oral health, as these fears often lead to vicious cycles of avoidance and declining oral health. When present in patients, these vicious cycles can continually reinforce the fears and create difficulties in cooperation and communication.
The nature of dental anxiety is fascinating as well as concerning, as dental fears often result from previous factors, such as:
- Painful experiences in personal memory
- Negative reinforcement through conditioning
- Belief in negative outcomes
- Common associations found with dentistry
The nature of dental anxiety is complicated, but dentists who work with patients with these fears often require a subjective assessment of the patient’s comfort and overall well-being. Those with dental anxieties may have prepared responses to the feeling of danger when present at the office. Through understanding these responses, dentists can help patients manage their fears more effectively and provide better treatment.
How Dentists Can Help Relieve Those Fears
Dentists often have a multitude of techniques that can be used to manage a patient’s dental anxiety. Finding better ways of addressing these anxieties is especially important for patients with poor oral health, as avoidance can make their dental health worse than before. As dentists, many are highly trained in handling a person’s fear and use techniques such as:
Stop-Signaling: Stop-signaling allows patients to actively communicate with their dentist to ask questions, calm down, and find the space needed to help manage their anxieties better during treatment.
Communication: Dentists that encourage their patients to ask questions, provide complete explanations for procedures, and provide other forms of reassurance often provide a healthier dentist-patient relationship.
Relaxation: Using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, and other forms of relaxation, can reduce their anxiety.
These methods, along with other forms of behavioral management, not only give dentists the tools they need but allow patients to find better avenues to express their fears, see the value in dentistry, and receive dental treatment that helps their oral health in the long run.