Dentists and Patients Alike Can Work to Minimize Dental-Related Fears

Many Americans have an aversion to visiting the dentist, though the American Dental Association emphasizes that routine dentist visits are critical for maintaining oral health. Avoiding cleanings can exacerbate already present dental problems. Moreover, adults with dentist-related fears can negatively affect the oral health of their children, according to a recent Swedish study.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports on the range of fears that keep some individuals from the dentist. Many people are afraid of the pain of procedures and anesthetic injections. Others’ fears may be more abstract. For example, some adults may have avoided cleanings for so many years that the shameful prospect of being lectured on the virtues of brushing and flossing can prove too mortifying to handle

Many dentists are retooling their approaches to fearful patients, according to the WSJ. Some dental school students are training in better communication skills by talking dental phobic patients – played by actors – through painful procedures. Speaking to the paper, David Hershkowitz noted that “there is usually something that triggers that phobia, like a bad experience when they were a child. Once you know the trigger point, you can do away with the fear.”

Moreover, the sound of the dental drill sends many over the edge. Thankfully, today’s electric drills are quieter. In fact, British researchers recently developed a device that produces inverted waves to cancel out the drill’s irritating whine.

For other patients, it is the atmosphere of the dental examination room – the combination of smells and sounds – that can cause high anxiety. Some dentists work to distract their patients with music or movies. Others refashion their offices to resemble spas by installing massage chairs and using warm neck rolls, according to the WSJ report.

Medical procedures also help soothe anxious patients. The news source notes that the most common are nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation, and some dentists numb the teeth and gums with lidocaine sprays. However, injected anesthetics used during major surgeries are another common source of fear. That is why innovations like the Wand, a device that controls the injection’s pressure, may help patients receive this sedation with more ease.

Patients should also be proactive in alleviating their fears. Participating in activities like yoga beforehand may be relaxing, according to the WSJ. Also, patients can discuss their fears with the dentist in order to craft treatment plans according to their needs.

How do you prepare for your trip to the dentist?

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