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What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is when you feel uncomfortable or anxious about visiting the dentist. It can range from mild anxiety to a complete phobia of the dentist. If you have dental anxiety, you are not alone. Nearly 40% of the adult population has a fear of the dentist. However, there are options to help you get to the dentist and make it through your appointments. 

Patient sitting in dental chair with hands covering their face in fear dental professionals holding dental tools dentist in Glyndon Maryland

Solutions for Dental Anxiety

There are many ways that you can treat your dental anxiety


A popular method of reducing dental anxiety is to utilize sedation dentistry. However, there are different forms of sedation. So, you will be able to find a suitable method for you. 

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is a gaseous form of sedation. You may be familiar with its other name, “laughing gas.” Known for its calming effects, laughing gas is a fast-acting and effective form of sedation. At the beginning of your appointment, your dentist will administer the gas through a face mask or nosepiece. Unlike other forms of sedation, this gas works almost immediately. 

Additionally, the effects wear off as soon as your dentist reverses the medication. This means that you will be able to take yourself to your appointment without help. While under sedation, you will still be able to communicate clearly with your dental team. 

If you have mild to moderate dental anxiety, you may consider talking to your dentist about nitrous oxide. 

Oral Conscious Sedation (OCS)

Oral conscious sedation (OCS) is a sedative that you will take in the form of a pill. Although you can respond to your dental team, OCS will make you sleepier or more groggy than nitrous oxide. However, OCS takes longer for you to begin feeling the effects. So, you may take it an hour or so before your appointment in order to reduce your anxiety. Because the effects are more robust, you will need someone to escort you to and from your appointment. In addition, it is dangerous to operate heavy equipment while under the influence of OCS. 

Intravenous (IV) Sedation

IV sedation is a stronger form of sedation. Your dentist or qualified professional can administer this sedative through an IV line. When under IV sedation, it is likely that you will completely fall asleep during your procedure. Dentists will recommend IV sedation for patients with extreme dental anxiety or those who will undergo complex procedures. 

Talk to Your Dentist

Your dentist is your best resource and strongest advocate for dental anxiety. They want you to succeed and be comfortable during your appointments. In fact, most dentists are aware of how common dental anxiety is for their patients. Therefore, they want to help you to make you feel comfortable. 

If it helps, your dentist can walk you through your procedure to ease your mind. Sometimes, it is the unknown that causes anxiety. Therefore, your dentist can tell you what will happen during your procedure step-by-step. This can help you prepare your mind for the process, reducing your anxiety and discomfort.