Two strategies a dentist might employ to help their patients who have a fear of dental treatments

Here are a couple of strategies a dentist might employ to help a patient who has a fear of undergoing dental treatments.

They might offer them sedation prior to their treatments

If a patient urgently needs a particular dental treatment but has been postponing it because of their dental fears, their dentist might recommend that they be sedated for this treatment. Most dentists can offer patients several forms of sedation, depending on their level of anxiety and overall health. This might include a mild prescription oral sedative, that will allow the patient to stay awake whilst having their dental treatment, but will keep them feeling relaxed throughout it. This can be a useful tool because if a patient undergoes multiple dental treatments whilst they are mildly sedated but still awake, they might begin to associate having dental work with feeling relaxed. Over time, this could potentially result in them being less fearful of having dental treatments and no longer needing as much, or any sedation.

Alternatively, if the patient has severe anxiety, their dentist might be able to offer them a general anaesthetic (provided the patient is healthy enough to have this strong medication). This form of anaesthetic will keep the patient unconscious whilst they undergo their dental work and they will not be able to recall any part of it. A dentist will usually only recommend general anaesthetic if they feel there is no other way in which their anxious patient will be able to remain still and calm throughout this dental procedure. The reason for this is that this form of anaesthetic carries greater health risks than other milder types of sedation and may result in the patient having to take more time off afterwards to recover.

They might help them to do gradual exposure and desensitisation work

Whilst a dentist cannot offer counselling, they often have patients who are undergoing counselling for their dental fears. If a patient's counsellor has recommended that they try to gradually expose themselves to the aspects of dental treatments they're afraid of so they can become desensitised to these things, then their dentist might be able to help them do this.

For example, if a person gets extremely anxious when they hear the noise of a dental drill or see it being switched on, they can, during their dental appointments, have their dentist switch on this tool for brief periods so they can gradually get used to the sound and sight of it. If they're fearful of all dental treatments involving dental instruments, they can arrange for their dentist to do a simple visual examination of their teeth, without any tools, and then at the next appointment, to do a very basic and gentle cleaning with perhaps one tool. At the following appointment, they may then agree to have their dentist use two or three dental instruments. Over time, this gradual exposure to their dental-related fears could help to desensitise them and allow them to undergo all of the dental work that they need.

For more information, contact a dentist near you.