Dental anxiety is a common phenomenon where patients experience nervousness or fear of dental procedures. Sometimes referred to as dentophobia or odontophobia, this anxiety can lead to poor oral health, as patients often avoid regular visits to their family dental practice. In the wake of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory disease it causes, dentists across the country are reporting a sharp increase in dental anxiety.
There are many questions and concerns patients have about COVID-19. In this guide, we’ll share tips about overcoming dental anxiety and talk about some of the protective measures dentists are using to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is a condition that affects millions of people. For some people with dental anxiety, the fear of pain or discomfort can lead to those people not seeking dental care, even if a serious issue should arise. Others may have had bad dental experiences in the past, such as treatments that took a long time or caused bleeding and pain. Fear or nervousness may arise from the sounds and odors of a dental office – the buzzing of dental drills, the sound of suction devices, or the scent of disinfectant. Still others may have witnessed family members expressing fear of the dentist, such as children learning this behavior from parents or other adults.
No matter the underlying cause, dental anxiety can eventually create poor oral health; skipping dental care out of fear means that routine cleanings and checkups are not being performed. Over time, this can lead to tooth decay, severe gum disease, and even the loss of teeth.
Visit this page for more information about how dentists help patients deal with dental anxiety.
What About COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, began to make its presence known in early 2020. Considered a global pandemic, the disease it causes is called COVID-19. Medical and dental professionals scrambled to control the spread of this potentially dangerous disease. Patients who already experience dental anxiety may wonder if they can get COVID-19 from a dental visit; dental offices remain open for business, as they are considered essential health services.
Sanitary Dental Practices
What are dentists doing to control and prevent the spread of infection? There are many tools at the disposal of dental professionals, who are already very experienced with sanitary and safe practices. Dentists may use some or all of the following practices, including:
- Sterilization of tools and equipment between uses.
- Implementing single-use sterile instruments that are safely discarded after use.
- Wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns.
- Rigorous disinfection of dental office surfaces, including both treatment and patient waiting areas.
- Evaluating patients before treatment. If a patient should have a fever, cough, or other potential symptoms of COVID-19, dentists will reschedule appointments for a time when the patient has recovered, if possible.
Experienced family dentists know that many of their patients will have some level of dental anxiety. With the coronavirus pandemic, more patients are expressing a fear of dental visits. By carefully adhering to best practices in terms of sterilization and disinfection, dentists are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and in the process are helping patients overcome some of their anxieties about visiting the dentist.