Dental phobias and anxiety can keep some people from ever stepping foot in a dentist office. Some adults with this phobia may force themselves to go every few years. These visits can be extremely difficult, and they may be physically ill in the days leading up to the visit. This limited or nonexistent professional dental care can result in severe tooth decay, infections and even poor health in general as poor oral health has been proven to play a part in things like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and lung conditions.
There are no concrete numbers available on the number of people who suffer from dental phobias and anxiety, but some studies put the estimates at almost 20% of the American population. That means in a household with five members at least one of them suffers from anxiety related to dental experiences. One survey listed by the Oral Health Foundation stated that more people in the U.K. are scared of dental visits than of heights.
Even celebrities can have dental anxiety. Some that are rumored to suffer from this condition include Robert de Niro, Kelly Osborne and even One Direction’s Harry Stiles. Osborne made her phobia public in 2010. She posted about it on Twitter the day she was going in for a filling. In a later tweet thanked her dentist and indirectly let her fans know she had worked through her anxiety enough to get the procedure done and keep her smile healthy.
Dentists around the nation have heard the fears and concerns of their patients and are finding ways to help them through their anxiety. Some offer unusual things like hypnotherapy, while others offer extreme fixes such as general anaesthesia even for simple cleanings. A very popular and more simple method being offered is called sedation dentistry.
In sedation dentistry medication in the Valium family is given to the patient in pill form to take before coming in for the procedure. It is usually taken an hour before beginning and has such a relaxing effect the patient must be driven to and from their appointment for safety reasons. In fact, no driving is allowed for 24 hours. Upon arriving at the dentist’s office, the patient should feel so relaxed that some even report falling asleep during their visit with no memory of the much-dreaded procedure.
Dr. Kurt Williams, DDS, well loved by his central Kansas patients for his extreme gentleness, says,
“Oral sedation is very easy and requires no needles. You simply take a little pill before your appointment and arrive in a state of deep calm and sleepiness. Sedation dentistry works so well, not only because it reduces anxiety and pain, but also because it helps your muscles relax and dental anaesthetics work better on a relaxed body.”
Sedation dentistry can help not only those who suffer from anxiety but also from a low pain tolerance, sensitive teeth, and even extreme gag reflexes. For those whose anxiety reaches phobic levels, the medication can even be taken the night before so they can sleep and not spend all night dreading their appointment. In Dr. Williams’ practice, he has seen a very wide variety of causes for this anxiety.
“We see so many patients who feel nervous and stressed about any kind of dentistry, let alone advanced dental treatments. Some of them have had bad experiences with dentists who were rough or in a hurry; others simply hate the idea of needles, while still others can’t ever seem to get numb enough. That’s why we offer oral sedation dentistry to sooth even the tiniest bit of stress and erase any discomfort”, he says.
It has been proven by science that oral health care is imperative to maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. Thanks to advances in modern medicine, even phobic and anxious patients do not have to forgo treatment due to their fears and have many options available to help them get the care they need and deserve.