What Causes Dental Anxiety?

Young woman in dentist chair suffering from dental anxiety.

When you hear someone mention visiting the dentist, do you get sweaty palms and a nervous stomach? Do you frequently cancel dental appointments – even if you’re in pain? If you are nodding yes, you may have a serious case of dental anxiety. While it may seem to be a made up term, it is very real condition that affects nearly 40 million Americans.

Dental anxiety ranges in severity but can affect anyone at any age. Some individuals power through and attend dental visits as scheduled, but suffer from an increased heart rate and bouts of tears before and during their appointment. Others avoid the dentist at all cost and use pain relievers to try and alleviate toothaches. For these individuals, the fear of visiting the dentist is far more excruciating than the enduring pain.

Are you afraid of the dentist? Many dentists today offer sedation dentistry as an excellent method for calming nerves so patients can receive the necessary dental care in a relaxed and comfortable state. Dr. Denes explains what causes dental anxiety and the treatment methods available that can help improve your dental experience. Contact our Fresno, CA office today online or call 559-297-1294 to learn more.

Side Effects of Dental Anxiety

Some of the more common symptoms of dental anxiety include:

  • Nausea
  • High heart rate
  • Sudden, excessive sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping the night before a visit
  • Irrational thoughts of worse case scenarios
  • Crying in the waiting room or during the appointment
  • Repeated cancellation of dental visits

Top Causes of Dental Anxiety

The cause of dental anxiety varies from patient to patient, but may be the result of:

Past Traumatic Experience

Perhaps one of the most common causes is due to a bad dental experience where you felt pain or received care from a dentist with a poor chairside manner. Dental anxiety can even result as a child if you overheard an adult negatively talking about the dentist.

Fear of Pain or Needles

If you have a low pain tolerance or a fear of pain, dental anxiety is a rational response. Although anesthesia is necessary for undergoing certain procedures, if you have a fear of needles or difficulty numbing, it can make an already nerve-wracking experience even more stressful.

Hypersensitive Gag Reflex

Most children have a hypersensitive gag reflex when they are first learning how to swallow anything other than liquid, but it will eventually resolve itself as they grow. However, adults who fail to outgrow this disorder have difficulty staying calm when certain items, such as toothbrushes, dental instruments, or x-ray equipment, are placed inside the mouth. When the gag reflex kicks in, it closes off the airway and can create a sense of fear.

Anxiety Diagnosis

People who suffer from anxiety in general have a tendency to involuntarily struggle with dental anxiety as well. Dental anxiety can exacerbate your natural ability to reason soundly and make visiting the dentist a frightening experience.

Embarrassment or Control Issues

Individuals who are self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth or the smell of their breath may feel uncomfortable at the close proximity of the dentist or dental hygienist. If you have difficulty relaxing when placed in an awkward situation where you have limited control, such as a dental chair, you may also battle with feelings of helplessness and anxiety.

How Oral Sedation Can Help

No matter the cause of your dental anxiety, Dr. Denes can provide you with oral conscious sedation to help you relax. Patients will receive a prescription for an oral sedative, such as Valium or Halcion to be taken the night before and the day of your appointment so you can achieve a relaxed state of mind. By implementing oral sedation into your dental visit, you can undergo the necessary treatment without cause for concern.

Afraid of the Dentist?

If you struggle from dental anxiety and avoid visiting the dentist year after year – we can help you overcome your fears with oral sedation. Please contact our Fresno, CA office today online or by calling 559-297-1800 to learn more.

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