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Coping with anxiety about dentistry

If you are anxious or fearful about going to the dentist, there are a number of things that can help.

  • Just talking to your dentist about your nervousness is worthwhile. Dentists are used to this and can help you to feel more in control by suggesting you use a simple signal (like raising a hand) if you need to stop for a moment during treatment, perhaps to get your breath or swallow.

  • There are numerous relaxation techniques (often used in childbirth classes) which help to suppress the effects of anxiety. Hypnosis can also be useful and some dentists offer this -- check beforehand.

  • You can be helped to feel relaxed by a process called ‘relative analgesia’, sometimes known as ‘inhalation sedation’. This involves breathing a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen (‘laughing gas’) which quickly produces a pleasant, ‘floaty’ feeling. There are no after-effects and you will be safe to drive a car after about 15 minutes.

  

  • You can be offered sedative medicine in tablet or liquid form or as an injection.  This will make you drowsy and unaware of the dental treatment, but still able to communicate with the dentist. However the effects take a while to wear off and you won’t be able to drive, drink alcohol or operate machinery for some time afterwards.