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Tooth Extraction Jitters - Strategies to Manage Your Anxiety

Updated on February 15, 2017
May PL profile image

May lives in Australia and enjoys writing on many different topics. This article is based on her own tooth extraction experience.

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Tooth Extraction Jitters? Join the Club!

If you are about to visit the dentist to have your tooth extracted and have the jitters, join the club!

The time period between your decision to have your tooth pulled (upon the advise of your dentist) and the actual day of extraction can be an anxious and challenging period. However, it is not uncommon to feel that way. How do I know? I had my tooth extracted last week.

Most people I know have a preference not to have to visit the dentist—even though they may be experiencing pain or discomfort. They would choose to prolong the inevitable as much as possible, hoping the pain would somehow magically disappear, rather than have to put a foot past the dentist's door. I do know of big strapping men and grown up women who cringe and go white in the face at the thought of having to have their teeth extracted by their dentist. So, what is it about the dentist that terrifies some people? How can we overcome our fears? Curious, I held discussions with a few friends and some of my colleagues, and discovered the following:

Why Are We Terrified of the Dentist?

Oh, the pain!

When we think of the dentist, somehow we think of pain, even though we know that in truth, it is the procedure and that element of the unknown that has us worried. "Is there any way of receiving the anesthetic without those huge needles sticking into my gums?" "What if the anesthetic used is not effective or wears out before the procedure is over?" "What if I am in pain in the middle of the procedure and the dentist is not aware of it?" "What if it takes forever to get the extraction done?" "The whine of the dental drill makes me wince, doesn't it make you wince?"

Having gone through an extraction last week, one thing I noticed is that dentistry has come a long way since the days of my parents. Let's be honest, there will be some pain. This pain occurs in the initial stages of the injection of an anesthetic (in fact, there were two injections, one on the outer side of the gums, the other on the inside which turned out to be the more painful of the two). If it is any comfort to you who have to have a tooth extracted, the majority of the procedure after injection was pretty painless.

When I was young...

Some of us hold memories of yesteryear which unfortunately include unpleasant encounters at the dental surgery. Horror memories that paralyse some and cause some to break out in cold sweat. This type of deep rooted fear might have to be dealt with in order for healing to happen. I personally have memories of reasonably good visits with the dentist when I was little, and thankfully,do not have this fear to contend with.

Hello? You are not aware that I am in pain!

One of my worries is that I am not able to communicate my thoughts with the dentist during the procedure. Fortunately my dentist has devised a way for me to communicate with him and that is by me lifting my hand when I require him to stop the procedure mid way.

I really cannot afford this.

Not many of us can. For many of us, visiting the dentist is not really the issue. It is the cost that is associated with dental work. Most of you would agree that the costs of majority of dental treatments do dig deep into your pocket and many of us do not have that type of disposable income to dip into. It gets especially difficult when you have a family whose dental care costs you have to contend with. Unfortunately, dental work then becomes a low priority until the situation absolutely demands the attention of the dentist.

10 Strategies to Manage Dental Anxiety

So what are your options now? What can you do in order that you feel calm when you walk into the surgery? You will find suggestions as per below, some requiring some input from yourself before the procedure, some are applicable for when you are in the surgery.

  1. First of all, identify what your fears are, otherwise even the best dentist in the world will not be able to assist you.
  2. Look for a dentist who has experience dealing with dental anxiety. Find one whom you are comfortable enough with to communicate your uneasiness and doubts about having your tooth extracted. It is important that you like your dentist and start to build trust with him.
  3. You need to know what you will be going through during the tooth extraction procedure. I encourage you to equip yourself with as much accurate information as you can before the fact as this generally helps ease unnecessary anxieties.
  4. For those who have to have a root canal done, a dental syringe and drill will be used. Some get nervous with the thought of the dental drill boring through the enamel of the tooth. For those of us who have to experience extraction, it is the dental syringe that will be used to inject into the gums, and for some, that is enough to cause them to go all clammy in the hands. I suggest you ask your dentist as to what tools will be used, how they will be used and how much pain you might feel.
  5. Do query the dentist with regards to sedatives that can relax you or advanced anesthetics that he could prescribe for the procedure. Know what your options are, find out if what he has prescribed will last throughout the procedure.
  6. Work out a method of communication. The dentist I go to suggests I raise my hand if I require him to stop mid way through the procedure.
  7. For some, the sound of the drill whirring can become a concern. If noises from the tools that the dentist use put you on edge, I suggest you put your headphones on and listen to the radio or your favourite music.
  8. If you generally consume tea or coffee, it might better to lay off the stuff as it could possibly add to your nervousness.
  9. Work out a payment plan with your dentist beforehand. However there is the option for you to get in touch with dental schools in your vicinity and query about quality dental care at lowered prices.
  10. Last but not least, learn to relax. Inhale deeply and slowly and above all, stay calm.

My family goes to a dentist here in Melbourne, Australia who has excellent chairside manner. He ensures that his patients are comfortable chatting with him regarding their dental concerns. I had to have one of my molars extracted last week and he did not hesitate to explain the whole procedure in order that I may be aware of what I would have to go through. I strongly suggest that you find a dentist whom you feel comfortable to discuss your fears with.

Please note that I am not a person in the medical field and do not claim to be qualified to give any professional advice. What you read here is particularly from my experience of late visiting the dentist and also information that has been harvested from family's and friends' personal experiences. Should you require professional advice on your dental predicament, please do not hesitate to check with your dentist as soon as possible.

All the best, and keep smiling!

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    • profile image

      Wendy 5 years ago

      Thanks for the advice. I am about to go visit the dentist for a filling. Wish me luck!

    • May PL profile image
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      May PL 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      You are most welcome, Wendy and all the best with your dental appointment!

    • Kelsey Farrell profile image

      Kelsey Elise Farrell 21 months ago from Orange County, CA

      Great advice, I wrote a similar hub about getting over dental anxiety (which I have always suffered greatly from!). I appreciated reading the tip about working out a payment plan beforehand--I think a large chunk of dental anxiety stems from the fear that we won't be able to pay for our procedures (even with dental insurance). Great suggestion!

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