Top Tips & Techniques to Manage Dental Anxiety

Cindi Ho By Cindi Ho

Let me introduce you to the Sensory Homunculus (Latin for “little man”).

Sensory Homunculus

He might be the reason many of you feel nervous about visiting the dentist. You see, the sensory homunculus shows what a man’s body would look like if each part grew in proportion to how sensitive that part of the body is. Just look at the size of his mouth!

When you visit the dentist, you are getting work done on some of the most sensitive parts of your body. Coupled with the drilling sound, the possible need for injections, the anticipation of pain, an unfortunate bad experience, and the fact that you cannot see what’s being done in your mouth… Little wonder then, that dentists often make it into Top 10 most feared lists! (Not exactly an achievement we are aiming for).

However, you should not let dental anxiety get in the way of the dental care you need. In fact, the longer you delay treatment, the worse the problem becomes, and the more uncomfortable and complicated it will be for you to get the problem fixed. This creates an unhealthy downward spiral that will only heighten your dental anxiety.

Therefore, it is advisable to visit your dentist regularly so that he or she can help prevent problems from developing, or spot problems early and nip them in the bud while they are relatively easier to treat. Case in point: timely root canal treatment saves millions of teeth each year!

Here are some tips that can help you manage your anxiety and make your dental experience a more pleasant one:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Have a strong gag reflex? Some teeth are particularly sensitive during scaling? Fearful of injections? Share your fears with your dentists, let them know your concerns and how they can help make you more comfortable during treatment. As dentists, we are all trained to manage patients with anxiety. When we know your concerns, we can better adapt the treatment to suit your needs. You can also discuss the use of hand signals to ease off or stop the procedure, if need be, so that you feel more in control during the treatment.
  2. Acclimatize yourself to the treatment – For routine dental treatment, you can request to start with the more straightforward procedures. The dentist can then move on to more complicated procedures as you become more comfortable with their treatment.
  3. Distraction – Plug in and listen to your favourite tunes to distract yourself from the sound of the drill. If you feel more assured hugging something during the procedure, ask for a pillow. Sometimes, the dentists themselves can talk their way into distracting you from the procedure.
  4. Relax by taking slow, deep breaths to calm yourself down during treatment.
  5. Avoid sugary or caffeinated food and drinks just before your dental appointment as these may send your already jittery nerves into overdrive.
  6. Choose a dental team you can trust to take care of you. Confidence in the dental team can help reduce anxiety associated with the procedure.

What happens if you are still unable to cope with the treatment despite trying the tips given above? In such cases, depending on your health and the type of treatment required, your dentist may suggest sedation techniques to alleviate your anxiety. Depending on the level of sedation required, a few techniques can be used:

  1. Oral sedation – Your dentist will prescribe a pill that will make you feel drowsy and calm during treatment. No needles required! However, you will still be conscious and responsive during the procedure.
  2. Inhalation sedation – This involves the use of laughing gas (nitrous oxide) to help you relax.
  3. Intravenous sedation – Anti-anxiety medication is given directly into your bloodstream to help achieve a deeper state of relaxation, similar to being in a deep sleep. You will not recall much or even anything about the procedure.
  4. General anaesthesia – You will be completely knocked out and free of pain. This is usually recommended for highly dental phobic patients or those undergoing complex oral surgical procedures.

We are here to help you. Work through your anxiety with your dentist and you may find yourself feeling less nervous the next time you pay them a visit! Book a appointment at your preferred location in Singapore now.

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