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“I’m scared of the dentist”. Maybe it all started with a rough dentist that you saw as a child, not getting enough numbing before drilling, or even feeling ignored and not being heard by the provider. As an adult, it’s no wonder that you avoid going to the dentist unless things are out of control. Today, I want to talk about dental anxiety and the techniques that we can use to provide you with safe, comfortable dentistry and get you back to dental health!

If you have dental anxiety then you are in good company! According to The Journal of the American Dental Association, up to 75% of Americans deal with dental anxiety. Of these, about 20% can be diagnosed with dental phobia- or an extreme fear of the dentist. People with dental anxiety have had traumatic experiences in the past that cause them to be afraid of the dentist. However, those with dental phobia have developed fears that are more extreme and sometimes irrational. Whatever the fear is based on, it doesn’t make the fear any less real or treatable.

So, dental fear is normal, what can we do about it?

Here at Hu Smiles in Renton, we use a multi factor approach to create a relaxing visit-

  • create a warm environment
  • personal attention and customized care
  • the best anesthetics and medications
  • latest techniques in anxiety management

Warm environment- We believe that the best way to feel comfortable in the dental office, is to make the dental office comfortable!

The first thing you will see when you come to our office are warm colors and comfortable chairs in the waiting room. Since we are a small family practice, you will always be greeted by the same familiar faces when you come in.

Customized care- At your first no-stress visit,  we will do an examination of the condition of your teeth. Afterwards, I will sit with you personally to discuss the condition of your teeth, your options for treatment and sedation and we will decide on a course of action together. We will take the time to address both your teeth and your fears and always encourage you to ask questions before, during and after the procedure.

Anesthetic tools- At Hu Smiles in Renton, we provide a large variety of sedation and anesthetic options. Whichever approach we decide on, you can be assured that we will prioritize safety and efficacy.

  • Nitrous oxide- also called laughing gas. This is most effective if you have just a little bit of anxiety. Laughing gas gives you a general sense of relaxation/euphoria and has very few side effects. Since it is a gas it leaves the body almost immediately so that you can get through the rest of your day with no problem!
  • Oral sedation- If you are more anxious or if you need a longer procedure then we will recommend oral sedation. Oral sedation involves taking sedative pills through the procedure and is stronger than laughing gas. It will give you a heavy sense of relaxation and many people do not remember much of the appointment. Due to the strength of the sedatives, a responsible escort is required along with an empty stomach.
  • IV sedation- If you are really anxious or if you want to be knocked out, then IV sedation will be the way to go. IV sedation allows the greatest sedation among these options and allows for almost no memory of the appointment. Since we are able to administer stronger anesthetics, patients usually experience less post operative discomfort. Will also need a responsible escort and an empty stomach.

Techniques- A technique that we recommend our patients use on their own at home and in the practice is the Jacobsens muscle relaxation technique. This technique involves tensing specific muscles for 5-7 seconds followed by 20 seconds of relaxation.

Step-by-step instruction
• Gently breathe in – hold – and let go.
• Gently pull your toes up toward your knees – just a little – hold briefly – and let go. Recognize the difference.
• Press your heels into the floor – hold – and let go.
• Pull your knees together – hold briefly – now let them drift apart a little. Be aware of the new position.
• Squeeze your buttocks together – hold – now let go.
• Gently pull in your tummy muscles toward your spine – hold briefly – now let go. Feel the difference.
• Shoulders – gently pull them up toward your ears, just enough to recognise the tension – hold briefly – now let go. Recognise the new position.
• Gently press your elbows and upper arms to the sides of your body – hold for a moment – now let go.
• Hands – gently clench – hold – and let go.
• Push your head forward slightly – hold briefly – now let your head go back to a balanced position. Feel the difference.
• Grit your teeth together – hold briefly – now let your jaw sag slightly. Feel the difference.
• Lips – press together – now let go until hardly touching. Purse your lips – now let go and feel the difference.
• Press your tongue briefly to the roof of your mouth – hold – and let it drop loosely. Feel the new position. Eyes – screw them up a little – hold – and let go.
• Forehead – frown a little – hold – now let go.

Using these techniques, we’ve been able to provide comfortable dental treatment to many patients with severe anxiety. If you have had a traumatic dental experience in the past and have been putting off needed treatment, we can help you through it and get you back to dental health!