Do You Have a Fear of the Dentist

Woman experiencing dental anxiety.

Do you postpone going to the dentist year after year? Does your heart rate increase at the thought of having your teeth cleaned? Do you have trouble sitting still for long periods of time? If any of these statements connect with you on a personal level, it is possible you are struggling from dental anxiety. This term may sound made up, but it’s a real condition that affects real people everyday. It affects roughly 40 million Americans, and at its most severe, can keep individuals from receiving the care they so desperately need.

In recent years, sedation dentistry has continued to expand its influence so that patients can achieve a calm and relaxing state of mind and comfortable dental care. The type of sedation administered will depend on your level of anxiety. Dr. Eshom provides several different types to meet the needs of his patients. Continue reading to learn more about dental anxiety and the treatments recommended. You can also schedule a consultation with our San Diego, CA office by visiting us online or calling (858) 455-9151.

Do You Have Dental Anxiety?

You may have dental anxiety if you can answer yes to any one of these statements.

  • I hate visiting the dentist.
  • I have a fear of pain, needles, or dental instruments
  • I frequently cancel dental appointments.
  • I have difficulty getting comfortable in a dental chair.
  • I have irrational thoughts and emotions about dental visits.
  • I have trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment.
  • I experience high blood pressure, nausea, increased heart rate, or excessive sweating when visiting the dentist.
  • I have a hypersensitive gag reflex.

Common Causes

While it’s hard to know what causes dental anxiety for each individual person, some of the more common reasons include:

  • Bad prior dental experience
  • Hearing of someone’s negative dental experience
  • General anxiety
  • Fear of pain
  • Embarrassment over bad breath or the appearance of teeth
  • Loss of control or feeling helpless in a dental chair

Anxiety about the dentist can develop in young children and follow them throughout adulthood. As parents, it’s important to start taking your child to the dentist at an early age and to remember to talk positively about the dentist in front of them. Little ears are always listening and even the simplest negative statement can have a lasting influence.

How Sedation Can Help

Sedation dentistry can help take the edge off, allowing you to completely relax and receive the necessary care in a comfortable environment. There are several different types of sedation to choose from, including:

  • Nitrous Oxide: Also known as “laughing gas” – this sedation is administered via a nose mask that remains in place throughout the entire duration of treatment. It allows you to completely relax and achieve a euphoric state of mind. While the dentist will be able to communicate with you, after treatment you will have little to no memory of the experience. Once nitrous oxide is removed, the effects wear off quickly and you can drive yourself home.
  • Oral Conscious Sedation: For a stronger effect, Dr. Eshom can prescribe an anti-anxiety prescription medication, such as Valium or Halcyon. The dosage given will depend on your level of anxiety. Patients are often give two different dosages, one to take the night before so they achieve a good night’s sleep, and one to take the day of the appointment. Under oral conscious sedation, you will achieve a sleep-like state, but still be able to communicate with the dentist. Because the aftereffects are stronger, you will need to have a loved one drive you home.
  • IV Sedation: If you are looking for a solution that involves no memory of treatment, an in-office anesthesiologist will administer sedation intravenously for an even deeper sleep-like state. As with oral conscious sedation, you will need to arrange for a ride home.
  • General Anesthesia: As the highest form of sedation, general anesthesia is also administered intravenously, but you will be completely asleep under its effects. An anesthesiologist will monitor your vitals throughout the treatment as Dr. Eshom provides the necessary care. This type is reserved for severe dental anxiety or complex treatments.

Overcome Your Dental Anxiety

Don’t let fear keep you from receiving the care you so desperately need. Contact our San Diego office today online or by calling (858) 455-9151.


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