Dental anxiety can be an emotionally taxing condition among patients of all ages. In severe cases, this sickness can result in a patient missing or delay their treatment, which may have adverse consequences on their dental and overall health.

Fortunately, you no longer have to live or suffer in silence with deteriorating dental health. Modern dentistry has made it possible for patients to enjoy dental care in a way that resonates with them.

What Is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a common condition that tends to leave patients panic-stricken and petrified. This ailment varies from mild nervousness to a severe phobia. Some people may get nervous when they hear drilling sounds or see dental equipment while others may get scared due to their past unpleasant dental experiences. Dental anxiety is unique in every patient, and it should be treated differently for each person.

Tips To Ease Dental Fear

You can ease your dental fear by:

  • Using various relaxation techniques such as aromatherapy, audio and visual media to alleviate your anxiety
  • Finding a dental practice that has procedure in place for treating anxious patients
  • Asking your dentist about the different treatment alternatives that may help with your anxiety

Treatment Of Anxiety Patients

There has been a significant rise in the number of dental patients with dental phobia. This has led to the development of special treatment methods for anxiety patients that have yielded positive results. Here are the strategies used to treat dental phobia:

Recognition of patients with fear of dentists

Most patients with dental phobia do not want to speak out for fear of being perceived as cowards or because they are ashamed of their condition. This makes it hard for dentists to determine which patients suffer from this disease.

Nonetheless, we have devised a few ways to identify them, preferably at the first examination:

Questionnaire: The questionnaire that a new patient fills in during their first appointment contains not only details regarding their health, but also other aspects such as how intense their fear for dentists may be.

Patient dialogue: An experienced dentist can tell if a new patient has a dental phobia just by having a short conversation with them.

Behavior during treatment: There are some few clues that an experienced dentist would not miss to identify a patient with anxiety.

They include;

  • The patient’s posture and position while in the dentist’s chair
  • The movement of their hands and feet
  • The patient requesting frequent bathroom breaks, to interrupt the treatment
  • Exaggerated gagging, swallowing reflexes, and strong perspiration on the  forehead

How Do We Administer Treatment For Dental Patients With Fear Of Dentists?

There are two main objectives we want to achieve when treating patients with dental phobia:

  1. To use the best possible treatment method necessary without causing the patient pain or anguish
  2. To resolve the patient’s dental phobia permanently

How to achieve these objectives;

Build trust

Many patients with dental phobia have reported that their fear is as a result of a traumatic experience with a dentist they trusted in the past. For such a patient, the best way to treat their anxiety is by earning their total trust. These patients expect not only perfect dental treatment but also precise and reliable details regarding their upcoming treatment. They also need us to be patient, attentive and understanding of their fears. As a dentist, having a significant amount of empathy for your patients is necessary to understand the patient’s concerns and to help you earn their trust.

Low stimulus atmosphere

A dental clinic can be a place loaded with memories of past experiences for a patient with dental phobia. Hence, the dentist should strive to make the negative conditioning of their clinic as minimal as possible. For instance, the dentist can work to make their hospital feel warm, welcoming and homey. This can be achieved by furnishing your waiting room with plenty of comfortable seats and an entertainment centre. They should also avoid long wait times, and disturbing drilling or suction noises that tend to make patients awaiting treatment uncomfortable.

Gentle, stress-free treatment

Thanks to the advancements in technology, painless treatment procedures can now be delivered to dental phobic patients, among other areas of medicine. While anaesthesia is a great thing when undergoing most dental treatments, no one like having to endure a painful injection. That is why we opt to numb the injection area first with an ice-spray of anaesthetising cream.

Preliminary discussion

This is usually the first consultation with the dentist. During this meeting, the patient explains to the dentist their condition as well as their concerns. After that, the dentist discusses in detail the intended treatment procedure. These discussions can be beneficial as they make it easier for the patient to talk about their fears as well as allow them to build a trusting contact with their dentist.

The examination

Most patients with dental phobia tend to have severe periodontal, gum and tooth damage due to the many years they have been avoiding dental treatment. Hence, we undertake a thorough dental examination to make sure any existing issues are pointed out while taking care not to put any more pressure or strain on the already anxious patient. Unless the patient wishes to have their treatment done on the same day, we make it clear to our patients that there will be no treatment on the day of examination.

During the examination, a panoramic X-ray is highly recommended as it provides a good overview of all the patient’s teeth and bordering anatomical structures.

Follow-up meeting

After the examination, we undertake a detailed discussion with the patient to explain the findings as well as the different treatment options. Since they are in a position to picture how the actual treatment procedure will feel like, they can choose the level of pain-free treatment to have for the actual dental work, with guidance from our experienced dentists.

How to overcome dental anxiety with sedation

pain free dental treatment options in Malta

Here are the pain alleviation measures available in Savina Dental Clinics (Malta & Gozo) for anxious patients:

  • Numbing the injection area first with an ice-spray of anaesthetising cream
  • Using fine needles
  • Using a specially made laser tool for various procedures such as gum-reshaping and crown-lengthening procedures
  • Pre-medication: We may also administer medication before the treatment to help ease the patient’s anxiety. In case the patient has a pre-existing infection or inflammation, we administer antibiotics or anti-inflammatories before the procedure to prevent complications during or after the treatment. Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication can also be prescribed prior to treatment in severely anxious patients. 
  • Numbing Spray: In some cases, we may use a throat spray with numbing effects to relieve gag reflexes in patients with a hypersensitive gag reflex
  • Intraligamentary anaesthesia: This can be administered for certain teeth and involves an injection of anaesthetic into the periodontal ligament space. This numbs the tooth in question but does not result in a numb feeling in the lip or tongue.
  • Although conscious sedation is administered in our clinics by an anaesthetist, we do not offer general anaesthesia since it requires a hospital setting. However, we can arrange for the treatment to take place at a private hospital, if need be, and carry out the therapy ourselves.

Have You Tried Our Free e-Consultation Service?

If you are worried about a dental related issue, interested in travelling to Malta for a dental holiday or have questions about any of the treatments we offer, please contact us using our new free e-Consultation service. One of our highly-qualified team will respond to your query as soon as possible. Our e-Consultation service is live 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday.

If you would like to schedule an in-person consultation at Savina Dental, please book your appointment using this form.

Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics

Joseph Xuereb
Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.