If you quake at the thought of setting foot inside a dental office, you’re not alone. Fear of visiting the dentist is a common issue.

Studies indicate that 75 per cent of people are nervous about going to the dentist. Other research shows that up to 15 per cent flatly refuse to step inside a dental practice because they’re terrified.

Whatever level of apprehension you have about dental visits, an appreciation of the improvements in dentistry over the years – particularly with sedation techniques – can help you to overcome your anxiety.

First, though, you need to understand what may be causing your trepidation about seeing a dentist.

What Causes Dental Anxiety?

A major cause of dental apprehension is fear of pain. This is most prevalent in individuals in their mid-20s or older, probably because they have bad recollections of their early dental experiences, before advances in dentistry led to a greater focus on patient comfort.

Embarrassment can be another reason why people avoid the dentist. Some people don’t like the idea of allowing a stranger to poke around inside their mouth – an intimate area of the body –particularly if they’re self-conscious about the poor appearance of their teeth.

Another cause of dental apprehension is concern about losing control – having to stay still in a dental chair and not being able to see exactly what’s going on.

All levels of dental anxiety share one aspect: they’re based on irrational fears, so realising that your concerns are groundless is the first step in overcoming dental anxiety.

If it’s been many years since you visited a dentist, you’re probably unaware how advances in modern dental technology and techniques have placed a strong emphasis on patient comfort and preventive care.

How Sedation Dentistry Helps Nervous Patients

You may also be in the dark about how sedation dentistry gives patients today safe options in easing their nervousness.

Sedative medication puts patients at ease by slowing down reactions of the central nervous system. In most cases, you are aware of your surroundings but less responsive to what’s going on. The medication also reduces the sense of pain.

Different Types of Sedation

A popular form of dental sedation among anxious patients is oral conscious sedation, when calming medication – typically benzodiazepine – is taken before treatment. With these oral sedatives, you remain awake but relaxed during the procedure.

Other forms of dental sedation include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which helps the patient to remain calm during treatment but then wears off quickly.

Deep sedation and general anaesthesia render the patient almost or completely unconscious, and you stay asleep until the effects wear off or are reversed with medication.

Advantages of Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation can be administered at mild or moderate levels and is ideal for people who fear needles (belonephobia). An oral sedative is also less expensive than intravenous (IV) sedation and has fewer side effects.

Oral conscious sedation can help to eliminate anxiety about pain, vulnerability and discomfort, and the benzodiazepines used in sedation dentistry are not addictive and have minimal side effects.

Patients who could benefit from oral conscious dental sedation include:

  • People with a phobia linked to dental procedures.
  • Those with a bad experience with dental treatment in the past.
  • People with particularly sensitive nerves in the mouth.
  • Patients with a small mouth, which can become tender during dental work.
  • People with a resistance to local anaesthetic.
  • Anyone with a general anxiety disorder.