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Dental Anxiety and Fear

The overwhelming fear of dental appointments can be a common cause of anxiety.  Many people visualize a drill-wielding man in a white coat just waiting to cause pain and remove teeth.  The reality, however, is very different.  The comfort, relaxation, and happiness of the patient are the primary focus of any good dental practice.  The staff at the practice will do whatever they can to reduce anxiety, allay fears, and provide painless, quick treatments.

Recent technological advancements have meant that in many cases, dentists are able to replace noisy drills with painless laser beams.  There are also a wide variety of safe anesthetics available to eliminate pain and reduce anxiety during routine appointments.

Here is a list of some of the most common dental fears:

  • Fear of embarrassment about the condition of teeth.
  • Fear of gagging.
  • Fear of injections.
  • Fear of loss of control.
  • Fear of not becoming numb when receiving anesthetic.
  • Fear of pain.
  • Fear of the dentist as a person.
  • Fear of the hand piece (or the drill).

How can one overcome dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety and fear can become completely overwhelming.  It is estimated that as many as 35 million people do not visit the dental office at all because they are too afraid.  Receiving regular dental check-ups and cleanings is incredibly important.  Having regular routine check-ups is the easiest way to maintain excellent oral hygiene and reduce the need for more complex treatments.

Here are some tips to help reduce dental fear and anxiety:

Talk to us – We can't read minds.  Though it can be hard to talk about irrational fears with a stranger, we can take extra precautions during visits if fears and anxiety are communicated.

Agree on a signal – Many people are afraid that the dentist will not know they are in significant pain during the appointment and will continue with the procedure regardless.  The best way to solve this problem is to agree on a “stop” hand signal.  Both parties can easily understand signals like raising the hand or tapping on the chair.

Take a mirror – Not being able to see what is happening can increase anxiety and make the imagination run wild.  Watching the procedure can help keep reality at the forefront of the mind.

Sedation – If there is no other way to cope, sedation offers an excellent option for many people.  There are several types of sedation, but the general premise behind them is the same: the patient regains their faculties after treatment is complete. At our office we offer nitrous oxide or general anesthesia to help ease children during treatment. 

    NITROUS ("Laughing Gas"): Nitrous is an analgesic and mild sedative used by many pediatric dentists. It is a very safe mixture of gas/oxygen which is inhaled by a nasal mask and takes effect within 5-10 minutes. Nitrous oxide in the dental office is never used as a general anesthetic: it does not put a child to sleep. Nitrous oxide decreases fear, anxiety, apprehension, and pain sensation. The use of nitrous oxide can help many children learn to cope with what can sometimes be a stressful experience for them.  Since nitrous oxide induces general fatigue and provides a pleasant sensation, it enables most children to remain relaxed for their dental  appointment. 

    GENERAL ANESTHESIA: In our practice, general anesthesia is administered by Shar Alikhani, M.D. Dr. Alikhani is a Board Certified   Physician Anesthesiologist who is fellowship trained in Pediatric Anesthesia.

If you have questions or concerns about how we can help you overcome anxiety and fear, please contact our office.


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