Dental Phobias Answered with Sedation Dentistry
Published on Sep 30, 2016
Dr. Pankaj P. Singh

There is a big difference between not looking forward to a dental visit and being deathly afraid of one. Patients with dental phobia experience unusually high or unreasonable fear of going to the dentist and it often keeps them out of the dentist’s chair leading to worsening of their dental and oral health. With sedation dentistry, there is no need to fear the dentist any longer!

Dental Phobia Defined

There is a big difference between not looking forward to a dental visit and being deathly afraid of one. Many people suffer from dental phobia which can range from mild anxiety to acute anxiety and/or panic attacks. Between 5% - 10% people suffer from dental phobia, while a 40-75% experience fear and anxiety making them postponing or cancelling appointments.  Dental phobia can be caused by several things including, but not limited to: a bad previous dental experience, fear of pain, fear of vulnerability, those with a non-specific anxiety related disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

People with dental phobia often put off dental visits which worsens the condition of the teeth, leading to more pain and more expensive, extensive treatment. This causes an exhaustive cycle for the patient only adding to their already present anxiety.  Not only mentally taxing, those with dental phobia have higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss, as well a higher level of risk for heart and lung diseases.

An answer to dental anxiety: Sedation Density

Sedation dentistry is the use of sedation during dental treatment. Sedation is most often used by patients who are medically compromised or having extensive dental procedures, patients who have dental phobia, patients who have difficulty controlling their gag reflex, and anxious or overly energetic children who cannot commonly sit through dental procedures. Type of sedation varies from oral sedatives to IV sedation dependent upon the patient’s medical history, age, psychological needs, and dental recommendation. Oral sedatives are generally used for those patients exhibiting mild anxiety, while nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas) is a well-known option for those patients who need help relaxing. For those patients with greater dental anxiety or phobia, IV sedation is most often recommended. Depending on the dentist’s training and state regulations, the dentist may administer sedation independently or by a certified anesthesiologist. 

Dental sedation is underutilized for several reasons. Many patients do not know enough about it or how it can help them. There is also a smaller population of dentists offering sedation dentistry, though that number is growing annually.  

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Beyond the obvious benefits of a less anxiety-ridden appointment, the patient experience is greatly benefited in several ways from sedation dentistry. Patients are, first and foremost, able to keep preventative care visits consistently which result in healthier teeth and gums, and generally less dental treatment. With sedation dentistry, often times patients can have more dental work done which reduces the number of dental visits needed. Having fewer dental visits saves the patient money, time off from work, and feelings of anxiety in preparing for visits. 


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