Effective methods in the treatment of patients with dental anxiety
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Dental phobia, also referred to as "dental anxiety," or "odontophobia," is a significant and intense fear of visiting the dentist for oral treatments. Individuals who experience high levels of this anxious condition avoid going to the dentist. It is estimated that 9 to 15% of both children and adults in America, about 30 – 40 million individuals, experience a level of dental phobia that causes them to avoid visiting the dentist. Individuals affected with this specific form of anxiety often neglect necessary dental visits for varying periods of time, which can, obviously, lead to health concerns in the oral cavity and other parts of the human body, as well as result in mental health and image concerns. When dental phobic patients do manage to attend a dental session, the individual often experiences great levels of anxiety and stress throughout the entire experience, not only creating pain and discomfort for the patient, but also creating adverse treatment circumstances for the dental practitioners that serve to help the patient. Efforts have been made in investigating the effectiveness of various techniques and approaches that could be implemented in the dental setting to ease phobic patients, granting them a less-stressful experience and allowing the dental staff to do their jobs more efficiently in providing the patient with appropriate oral care. There are several techniques used in the dental office today to reduce anxiety such as distraction, controlled breathing techniques, attention focusing, and several sedating methods employing various types of medication, as well as different types of administration. Distraction, controlled breathing, and attention focusing require special attention and an extension of time on the end of not only the patient, but also of the dental staff. These techniques, while possibly offering a reduction in feelings of anxiety, may require multiple attempts and a greater investment of time to show substantial results. Sedation methods may consist of various medications used alone or in a combination to successfully achieve a reduction in anxiety. With the various types of medications and techniques that can be used when sedating a patient, along with the various routes of administration, such as oral, intravenous, and intranasal, sedation methods can be adapted to best suit a patient in terms of their personal preferences and level of comfort, as well as to accommodate time requirements for specific procedures. Each of the techniques and methods used in today’s dental setting should be carefully and strategically evaluated and customized for the anxious or phobic patient in mind. Some methods are favored for certain attributes, varying from ease of use, time required, and speed of onset, to the efficiency in reducing a patient’s anxious or phobic symptoms. Professionals in the field of dentistry must act as providers of the treatment options and resources of the information in regards to the methods so that patients may become aware of the current tactics used in aiding such affected people.
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