Anxiety Disorders And Dental Care

Posted on: 29 December 2014

Most people view a trip to the family dentist as a necessary chore, unpleasant but something that must be done. However, individuals with anxiety disorders anticipate the same visit with dread and fear. Anxiety disorders are not to be confused with dental phobias, which are irrational fears that are isolated to going to the dentist.

Anxiety disorders affect sufferers in different ways. Types include:

  • Panic disorders. These disorders are characterized by spontaneous attacks of overwhelming fear and panic. They can come without warning or be precipitated by stress. Symptoms of a panic attack include a racing heartbeat, profuse perspiration, and a feeling of being unable to breathe. Ironically, fear of subsequent attacks after experiencing a panic attack often bring on other attacks.
  • Social anxiety disorders. Social anxiety involves fear of social interaction and worry about being judged. Extreme cases of social anxiety disorder will prevent the individual from performing daily tasks or getting necessary medical or dental treatment.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. This disorder causes an individual to worry excessively about everything, to the point of sleeplessness and inability to concentrate or perform daily tasks. Generalized anxiety disorder is based on the individual's perceived lack of control of their environment.

How do dentists treat patients with anxiety disorders?

Dentists face a difficult challenge in treating patients with anxiety disorders. Going to the dentist is already perceived as a negative experience by the general public. However, many dentists have been innovative in their approach toward minimizing anxiety in their affected patients.

Treating patients with generalized anxiety disorder involves explaining each step of their treatment before it is initiated, and allowing them to stop the procedure at any time through a prearranged signal. This gives the patient a feeling of control and participation in the outcome.

Lying prone while a dentist places instruments in a patient's mouth makes them feel vulnerable, so dentists learn to read facial expressions and body language to detect stress in anxious patients, before anxiety becomes troublesome.

Social anxiety disorder requires dentists to praise patients for coming in for necessary dental work, rather than castigating them for allowing dental issues to reach a certain stage. Positive reinforcement is the key to repeat visits and regular dental care.

Patients with panic disorders may opt for sedation dentistry, which is designed for patients with acute anxiety or panic disorders. Sedation has its own minimal risks, and should be used as a last resort, but untreated dental problems pose a greater health risk to patients who can't be treated in any other way.

To learn more, try contacting a company like Four Corners Dental Group Fairbanks with your questions.