Ways To Reduce Dental Anxiety

Armen Hareyan's picture

For some people, the fear of visiting a dentist outweighs the pain of a toothache.

But putting off that visit almost invariably leads to more advanced oral health problems and lengthier, more complex procedures. What many people don't realize is that they can work with their dentists to learn about and implement anxiety- relieving strategies, according to Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums, a new report from Harvard Medical School.

The most direct approach is to be straightforward with your dentist and explore various strategies for pain reduction together. Improvements in techniques, medications, and equipment over the past 30 years mean much more comfortable visits than those you might recall from childhood.

Dental Health for Adults describes in detail both standard and novel treatments available for pain management, such as local and general anesthesia, anti-anxiety medications, and conscious sedation. The report also includes a lengthy discussion of alternative approaches to dealing with dental anxiety. These are some of the tips in the report:

-- Have your dentist agree on a "stop" signal so you can take a time-out from the procedure.

-- Avoid caffeinated beverages before your visit, as they may make you jittery.

-- Listen to music on a portable music player before and during treatment.

-- Practice relaxation exercises and guided imagery techniques.


-- Get regular dental checkups, which help you build a good rapport with your dentist and enable your dentist to catch problems early.

Edited by Hans-Peter Weber, D.M.D., Head of the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the 48-page Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums also covers:

-- dental basics

-- the relationship between oral health and general health

-- taking care of your teeth at home

-- dealing with emergencies

-- tooth replacements

-- braces for adults

-- cosmetic dentistry.

Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums is available for $16 from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School.


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