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Effective Strategies to Manage Patients with Dental Anxiety ,
A teenage girl with dental anxiety at dental appointment.

One of the most significant characteristics contributing to dental care delays and avoidance is fear and anxiety towards the dentist and treatment. Dental anxiety refers to anxiety associated with visiting your dentist for both preventive care and other dental procedures. It makes it hard for patients to visit the dentist, therefore endangering their oral health. Thus, it is imperative that dentists formulate evidence-therapies for these patients without which they will be a cause for headache during treatment.

Identifying Patients with Dental Anxiety

The first appointment with a patient usually reveals to the dentist whether they have anxiety, phobia, and fear. A dentist can classify patients as highly, moderately, or mildly anxious using these ways:

  • Subjecting them to evaluation by self-reporting or interviews on anxiety
  • Assessment of pulse rate, blood pressure, and finger temperature

Methods of how to deal with dental anxiety can broadly be classified into:

Psychotherapeutic Interventions

These are usually cognitively or behaviorally oriented. The objective of behavior-modification techniques is changing unacceptable behavior via learning. They involve muscle relaxation, relaxation breathing, and guided imagery. The techniques also include physiological monitoring using hypnosis, biofeedback, distraction, acupuncture, stop-signaling, positive reinforcement, and exposure-based treatments like systematic desensitization.

  • Relaxation Techniques: When practiced regularly, relaxation responses can lower your anxiety and stress levels and enable you to cope with anxiety symptoms. You can achieve a relaxation response by muscle relaxation and deep breathing. In a relaxed state, the odds of being psychologically upset are close to zero.

Jacobsen’s progressive muscular relaxation is one of the most popular relaxation techniques that involve tensing certain muscle groups for at least five seconds. You are then supposed to relax these muscle groups for 20 seconds.

Functional relaxation is another relaxation technique that treats various psychosomatic disorders by positively stimulating the autonomic nervous system. The technique involves patients moving their small joints in a relaxed state. While at it, they focus on perceived changes in their body feelings triggered by these movements.

While all the above techniques are beneficial to anxiety patients, the most effective way dentists can relax their patients physically is by teaching them good breathing techniques. Diaphragmatic breathing is a more relaxed form of breathing where you breathe using your diaphragm. This reduces the tension in your chest and supplies more oxygen to your body.

  • Guided Imagery: This is a mind-body exercise in which patients are asked to close their eyes and imagine a pleasant experience. This way, all their focus, and energy are channeled to this experience, helping them reduce anxiety and achieve tranquility. This exercise comprises three stages: relaxation, visualization, and then a positive suggestion. You could imagine yourself on a beach, lake, or any other pleasant place. While patients are allowed to create their own image, the dentist can guide them using scripts.
  • Acupuncture: This technique involves your dentist inserting needles at some parts of your body. These points are called acupuncture points. Some of the dental problems that acupuncture can treat include temporomandibular joint disorders, pain, and anxiety. Studies indicate that this technique is capable of providing immediate pretreatment anxiety relief.
  • Distraction: Another way a dentist can relieve their patient’s anxiety is by diverting their attention from the procedure. They could give their patients short breaks between the procedure, play music in the background, or bring some 3-D video glasses. Good music has been known to provide deep relaxation and alleviate anxiety and pain.

Cognitive behavior therapy combines both cognitive and behavior therapy. It is also the most widely accepted anxiety in psychological treatment.

PharmacologicalInterventions

In situations where patients do not respond to psychotherapeutic treatment, the last resort is pharmacological interventions such as general anesthesia or sedation.

There are three types of dental anesthetics offered at Creative Dentistry & Medspa: local anesthesia, general anesthesia, and sedation. Your dentist at our dental clinic in Atlanta will recommend the anesthetic that best suits you depending on your age, health condition, nature of the procedure, and your reaction to anesthetics.

  • Local anesthesia: This type of anesthetic is used for simple procedures that take a considerably shorter time. During the whole procedure, you will be fully conscious and even be able to talk. However, the affected area will be numbed so that no pain will be felt.
  • Sedation: This type of anesthetic can be administered on various levels to alleviate pain or anxiety. You could take the medication orally, intravenously, intramuscularly, or inhale it.
  • General Anesthesia: This anesthesia is used for procedures that take a considerable amount of time or for patients with extreme anxiety. During the treatment, you will be unconscious and experience no pain.

Finding the Best Dental Anxiety Treatment Options

If you are looking for a dentist equipped in the management of anxious dental patients, Dr. Anitha Reddy here is your to-go person. At our practice, we offer dental anxiety management services and many more. Call us today and book an appointment.

Atlanta Office

5505 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd #460
Atlanta, GA, 30342

Alpharetta office

5755 North Point Pkwy Ste 102
Alpharetta, GA, 30022

Covington Office

4139 Baker St NE #15
Covington, GA, 30014