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Anxiety (Dental Fear and Phobia)

Diagnosis And Treatment

Diagnosis
The diagnosis of dental anxiety, fear or phobia is first made by recognizing your physical and psychological symptoms (see Symptoms). The next step is to acknowledge that you have anxiety. If your anxiety is strong and you avoid the dentist out of fear, it may be time to seek professional help. If your dentist believes that you may have an anxiety or panic disorder, you may be referred for evaluation to a physician who specializes in the treatment of these conditions.

Treatment
Following a diagnosis, your doctor(s) will recommend a treatment plan that will help you begin to overcome your anxiety. Some treatment may be self-administered at home or at the dentist’s office (such as relaxation, distraction, meditation, and hypnosis techniques) and other treatment may be supervised or delivered by your doctor, such as anti-anxiety medication, sleep medication or sedation medication that is given before and during treatment. Once treatment has started, be sure to communicate with your Dentist and/or Physician about any side effects or concerns. If one type of treatment is not working for you, there are other options.

Do not self-medicate (ie, use alcohol or other drugs) as treatment for anxiety, fear or phobia. Anxiety treatments include:

  • Sedation
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Desensitization, relaxation or meditation techniques
  • Distraction techniques, such as using special video glasses to view and listen to a movie during treatment
  • Hypnosis
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and/or professional psychological counseling
  • Lifestyle modification, such as diet (i.e., reducing/eliminating caffeine) and exercise
  • Signaling methods, such as raising the hand
  • Referral to dentist that specializes in treating patients with dental phobia.
  • Referral to physician who treats patients with stress, anxiety or phobic disorders.

    Prevention
    Once your symptoms are under control or have been eliminated, you will be able to cope better when having dental treatment and will be able to improve and maintain good oral health. After treatment, some people may be considered cured of their dental anxiety, fear or phobia, while other people must continue to control their symptoms in order to successfully cope with their condition. It is important to partner with your dentist and/or physician to find effective coping strategies that work for you and that you can use for a lifetime. Lifestyle changes like sleep, diet, and exercise, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants, and practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques can help combat and cope with everyday stress, promote better health and quality of life and may help reduce future episodes of anxiety, fear and phobia.

    Last updated: Dec-26-06

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