Last Updated on: 21st November 2023, 07:56 am
Approximately 50% of the population feels anxiety and stress before or during a visit to the dentist. The main reason is the fear of having an unpleasant or traumatic experience. This is because of the well-known but erroneous myth that all dental treatments are painful or bad dental experiences in the past.
Fear and dental anxiety can affect the quality of life of the patient, who may delay or postpone necessary dental treatments or only goes to the office when there are symptoms or pain, which worsens the situation.
To reduce anxiety during a dental consultation, various methods can be used that include, first of all, good communication between the dentist-patient, the use of anxiolytics and sedatives, or alternative therapies that help minimize fear and achieve the desired level of relaxation.
Table of Contents
Why is relaxation important for patients?
Relaxation techniques increase the level of confidence and give the patient more control over their anxiety. They are very effective methods in cooperative patients and in those afraid of dental treatments since with continuous practice, they can pass more quickly to a state of relaxation, being beneficial both for the patient and the professional in charge since cooperation facilitates and improves the performance of dental procedures.
Main ways to relax a patient:
1. Music therapy:
Music therapy is the use of music, sound, rhythm, and melody for therapeutic purposes, ideal for the restoration and maintenance of physical and mental health.
In the dental field, music therapy causes changes in the patient’s behavior that facilitate the treatment that should be received thanks to its anxiolytic effects and which results in the patient’s cooperation.
Aromatherapy is a relaxation method in which essential oils or aromatic liquids from plants, herbs, and flowers are rubbed on the skin, inhaled, or ingested to harmonize and promote the health of the body, mind, and spirit. The use of this technique in dentistry is very effective, mainly to reduce anxiety, stress, and fear and to induce relaxation since it provides a sense of well-being in the patient.
The most common ways to use essential oils in the dental office are through diffusers, sprays, and candles.
3. Guided imagery
This technique consists of a mind-body intervention that uses the patient’s own imagination to mentally recreate desired situations. It is considered a relaxation technique that focuses on the interaction between mind, body, and behavior. The patient is guided to concentrate on pleasant images and thus replace negative feelings or those that trigger anxiety.
4. Progressive muscle relaxation
This very simple relaxation technique consists of learning to tense and relax the different muscles of the body. It is based on the fact that stress generates a series of thoughts and behaviors that cause muscle tension in the patient, which increases the perception of anxiety. Progressive relaxation reduces this muscle tension and with it the corresponding feeling of anxiety.
5. Deep breathing exercises
It is one of the easiest and simplest breathing techniques whose function is to provide tranquility and relaxation when there is a certain level of stress or anxiety. This is because breathing with the diaphragm levels the heart rate and increases the level of endorphins responsible for providing well-being and happiness. It consists of taking in air through the nose for about 4 seconds, keeping it in the lungs, and letting the air out calmly for another 4 seconds, then repeating as many times as necessary.
6. Mindfulness meditation
This type of meditation consists of concentrating on being fully aware of what is being experienced and feeling at the moment, accepting and welcoming the experiences of our lives with an awake mind and without judgment. The practice involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other techniques to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Top tips to make the patient feel calm at the dentist by the staff:
- Recognize the patient right away. If they have to wait, make a witty comment to lighten the situation (Don’t run away!).
- Greet the patient with a smile and cheerful voice.
- Maintain direct eye contact.
Ways to reduce anxiety before a root canal procedure:
- Become an informed patient about root canal treatment. The more you know about the procedure, the calmer you will feel.
- Think about life after your root canal.
- Try practicing meditation and visualization.
- Practice self-care and pampering.
- Listen to music.
Ask your loved one what you can do to help. Ask if you can attend a therapy session to learn skills that allow you to better support them. Reserve time well before any treatment or procedure.. Encourage your loved one to try another therapist if the first one is not suitable.
Drills, needles and pain: oh, my God! Coping with dental anxiety…Your dentist may prescribe anti-anxiety medication, such as diazepam (Valium), which you can take one hour before a scheduled dental visit. Your dentist may also recommend conscious sedation, such as nitrous oxide (or “laughing gas”), which can help calm your nerves.
Sedation in Dentistry
The sedation used in dentistry as a technique consists of applying certain drugs to the patient to control their anxiety and help them relax. This sedation allows the person to remain conscious while dental treatment is performed; it is used for people who feel a high level of fear and anxiety when they have to go to the dentist.
The drugs of first choice belong to the group of benzodiazepines due to their efficacy and clinical safety, and also because they cause few side effects and may present favorable amnesic effects.
However, this technique should be used as the last relaxation alternative and always under the subscription of a medical professional, taking into account the patient’s age, previous treatment, possible interactions with other medications, etc.
If you have any questions about this or other topics, contact us at Channel Island Family Dental, as well as on our Facebookpage. At Channel Island Family Dental, we are always attentive to your needs to make a timely diagnosis. In addition, our dentists in Oxnard, Santa Paula, Newbury Park Ventura and Port Hueneme will guide you to the best treatment to give you back your best smile.
- Nieto Martínez, B. (2019) Management of the anxious adult patient in the dental office. https://dentistaypaciente.com/punto-de-vista-131.html
- Drown, D. (2018) Attitudes and Practice for Patients with Dental Anxiety. The Journal of Dental Hygiene. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30143548/
- Relaxation and sedation. Oral Health Foundation. https://es.dentalhealth.org/relajacion-y-sedacion
- Ríos Erazo, M. (2014) Dental anxiety: Evaluation and treatment. Advances in Odontostomatology. https://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0213-12852014000100005
(2020) 5 things to know about relaxation techniques for stress. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-relaxation-techniques-for-stress
- Muñúzuri Arana, H. (2019) Music therapy and aromatherapy as an alternative to control anxiety in pediatric patients who attend dental care. https://dentistaypaciente.com/investigacion-clinica-134.html