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Dental Fear in America

An estimated 90,000,000 Americans fear the dentist. The National Institute of Health reports that half of all Americans avoid the dentist and site fear as the number one reason.

The level of fear and dental anxiety that an individual feels is based on their unique experiences. It can range from “I just don’t like it” to symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress. For some, going to the dentist may seem like a routine nuisance, but the resulting health benefits make it worthwhile. For many, however, sweaty palms, anxiety attacks, painful flashbacks, and uncontrollable tears make even the thought of a single visit to the dentist seem insurmountable. The embarrassment of these emotions and years of neglect make the added fear of judgment even more terrifying.

Dentists are often portrayed in TV and movies as inflictors of pain—but that image is grossly misrepresented. Dentists are compassionate, caring people who have dedicated their lives to helping people. In the last decade, sedation dentists have stepped up to become vocal advocates for those suffering from all levels of dental anxiety. The result has been a shift in the public image of dentistry. These dental pioneers have researched and tested both behavioral and pharmacological techniques to ease the fears that so many people experience.

The science and medicine now available makes it possible to alleviate patients’ fears and eliminate any pain during dental procedures. Over 12,000 offices in the U.S. and Canada have been trained to provide these services, and more are constantly being added.

A variety of protocols based on patient characteristics are used throughout North America. Protocols range from the use of anxiety-relieving nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and mild oral medications taken before treatment to stronger medications administered orally throughout treatment and intravenously for severe anxiety. Different medications are matched with each individual’s unique needs and medical history.

Patients who experience sedation dentistry often become its biggest advocates. “The only reason I moved forward and even considered having imperative dental work completed was because of oral sedation. My fear of dentistry caused me to allow damage to my teeth,” says K.R. from Kansas. “Sedation dentistry is just wonderful. Now I can smile and laugh again. I have my confidence back and life is just so much better.”

No one needs to suffer from dental pain, fear, and anxiety. Sedation dentistry, in all its forms, when completed by a properly trained practitioner, is safe and effective for patients. It allows people to receive their dental care in the most comfortable way possible. Dental fear and anxiety can be a thing of the past. Dental health does not need to be neglected. As dentistry advances so does its image and the possibilities for its patients. Through sedation dentistry, dental fear in America can be defeated.