Dental anxiety

Posted: Apr 03 2023

Some people will do just about anything to avoid a visit to the dentist. While dental anxiety is a real problem affecting 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 10 children, Dentists do have strategies to help create a calm and comfortable experience.

We have a chat to Health Partners dentist, Dr. Nupur Bhatia about what causes dental anxiety and how a dentist can help make your appointment a less anxiety provoking experience.

What is dental anxiety?

“It’s a term that you’d use to describe fear, anxiety or stress in a dental setting. There is also dental phobia which is much more extreme, and much more of a serious problem to manage,” Dr Bhatia says.

Signs or symptoms of dental anxiety

Most people can manage their anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist, but it doesn’t mean their anxiety symptoms are any less severe.

People with dental anxiety may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Increased sweating
  • A racing heart or palpitations
  • Changes to blood pressure and possible fainting
  • Visible distress, crying or signs of panic
  • Using humour or aggression to mask anxiety

Dr Bhatia says dentists are trained to detect if a patient is feeling anxious when they’re sitting in the chair, however, it’s important to speak up to your dentist and let them know if you’re feeling anxious or fearful of a procedure.

Why do some people suffer from it?

Dr Bhatia says dental anxiety has a lot of contributing factors . The fear of experiencing pain is one of the main reasons people experience anxiety.

“Negative past experiences and the feeling of having a lack of control can also be reasons why some people may feel anxious,” she says.

For those who already suffer anxiety, being in a dental setting can increase the effects of their condition. People who have agoraphobia (fear of being in situations where you can’t escape), claustrophobia (fear or closed spaces) or a tendency for obsessive-compulsive behaviours can often experience increased anxiety with visits to the dentist.

Alternative options to assist with dental anxiety

The use of relaxation and/or distraction techniques may be used by dentists during dental appointments to make patients feel more comfortable and reduce their anxiety.

“Relaxation techniques, remind people to focus on their breathing, slowly inhaling and exhaling when they can,” Dr Bhatia says.

Progressive muscular relaxation is another technique your dentist might use. This involves tensing and relaxing groups of muscles, starting from your feet and working your way up the body.

Dr Bhatia says some patients bring along music to listen to, or watch the TV on the ceiling of the surgery while having procedures done. These are common distraction techniques.

What is Nitrous Oxide Sedation and how does it work?

Some patients may benefit from a little more help to relax during dental appointments, and therefore Nitrous Oxide Sedation (also known as happy gas) where the patient inhales a mix of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen, was introduced as a relaxation treatment option at Health Partners Dental.

“Nitrous Oxide Sedation is a conscious sedation method, meaning the patient remains awake during the dental treatment. It’s a sweet smelling gas that works very quickly to decrease any discomfort and relax the patient.”” says Dr Bhatia

Nitrous Oxide sedation is known to be a very safe pain relief method that both children and adults can use during dental treatments. It is administered by a dentist who has undergone additional training.Dr Bhatia says, “the effects of Nitrous Oxide Sedation are reversed very quickly. At the end of the procedure the patient breathes 100% oxygen for about four to five minutes to flush out the nitrous oxide from their lungs.”

Posted: Apr 03 2023


The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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