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Drug-Free Ways of Dealing with Dental Anxiety

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If you want to save money – and who doesn’t these days? – one of the worst ways you can do it is by avoiding the dentist.

Really.

Regular cleanings and exams are crucial for preventing the need for more dental care. They’re right up there with home hygiene and eating a nutrient-dense, real food diet. They let us identify any emerging problems early, when they’re easier and less expensive to treat.

It’s hard to overstate just how important this is. Most dental problems don’t get better on their own. They get worse. They get more difficult to treat. They get more expensive to treat.

Preventive visits, on the other hand, are proven to keep dental costs down. They may even help you reduce how much you spend on medical care, as well, considering that poor oral health – particularly poor gum health – raises your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cognitive decline, some forms of cancer, and other chronic conditions.

Yet roughly 60% of folks in a recent survey cited cost as a key factor in their choice to avoid dental visits.

There were other reasons, as well. Dental anxiety was mentioned by 42% of survey participants, and about a third expressed worry that they’d find out they had decay or other problems needing treatment. That, of course, can ratchet up anxiety even more – just as regular dental visits could quell it by reducing the chance of it happening.

Still, a full 70% of respondents said they just don’t like going to the dentist. Over half complained of having had negative experiences.

It’s statistics like these that drive us to make visits in our office as easy, comfortable, relaxed, and positive as possible.

Much of that happens through the kind, caring, and upbeat nature of our team members. Another portion comes through our state-of-the-art facilities and the positive, healing environment we all strive to maintain.

And when these alone aren’t enough to tamp down any fear of getting the dental care you need, we have sedation options like nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) and oral conscious sedation to help take the edge off and help you relax in our pristine treatment rooms.

As our practice is holistic, though, many of our patients prefer drug-free options to relax. There are certainly some excellent homeopathics and botanicals for calming the nervous system. Mindfulness practices such as controlled breathing and progressive relaxation can be helpful, too. Using an eye pillow and listening to music you love can keep you in a mellow groove while distracting you from any sights or sounds that could provoke anxiety.

And now, a new review in the Australian Dental Journal lays out the evidence base for these kinds of “psychotherapeutic behavioural strategies.”

Its authors reviewed a wide range of studies – 54 in all – that evaluated multiple strategies for dealing with dental anxiety without resorting to medications (allopathic or otherwise). Those strategies included

  • Music therapy
  • Virtual reality
  • Immersive reality
  • Hypnosis
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Dog-assisted therapy
  • Brief information
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Biofeedback
  • Stimulation
  • Brief cognitive behavioral intervention

While the authors admit that the evidence base for some of these is less robust than for others, all were found to have a potential role to play in successfully managing dental anxiety, perhaps especially in combination.

And compared to drug-based interventions,

Psychotherapeutic behavioural strategies can modify the patient’s experience through a minimally invasive approach with nil or negligible side effects, depending on patient characteristics, anxiety level and clinical situations.

But we’d like to add one more strategy to the list: communication. If anxiety is keeping you from getting the dental care you need and deserve, tell us. If there are specific things we can do to help make your visits in our office more comfortable and relaxed, tell us. We’re happy to do anything we can to make each of your visits here a positive experience and, above all, help you support your whole body health and wellness through maintaining and sustaining excellent oral health.

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This blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual health, fitness or medical advice.

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