Weighted Blanket for Dental Anxiety

Does the thought of having your pearly whites scrutinized in the dentist's chair give you the heebie jeebies? Well, you're not alone. Having feelings of anxiety and fear prior to a dentist appointment is regarded as a universal phenomenon.

According to a team of scientists from the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, 9% to 20% of Americans avoid going to the dentist—that's approximately 30 to 40 million people.

A survey done by the British Dental Health Foundation revealed that 36% of people who weren't regulars at their dentist's office admitted that fear was the main reason.

Why Do People Have Dental Phobia and Anxiety?

These feelings may be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most common reasons are as follows:

1. Dreading Pain

Patient's fears usually stem from negative past experiences, and these dental horror stories made them develop anxiety for future visits to the dentist. 

2. Fear of Injections

Needles can make even grown men sprint for the door in a tenth of a second. But needles inserted into the mouth? They'll most probably lose consciousness before you ask them to "say aaaah". 

3. Side Effects from Anesthesia 

Sometimes, people get nauseaous or dizzy after getting anesthetic injections, and this may put them off of the procedure. Another side effect of anesthesia is the "fat lip" or numbness that comes afterwards.

Symptoms of Dental Phobia and Anxiety

  • Difficulty sleeping the night before a visit to the dentist
  • Intense nervousness that intesifies while in the waiting room
  • Falling ill or other physical reactions at the mention of a dental operation
  • Panic attacks when instruments are inserted into the mouth during a dental procedure

If the above sounds familiar, then you may be suffering from dental anxiety or phobia. When left untreated, this may lead to the worsening of your teeth, which will then result in you having to go back to the dentist for even more procedures.

Dealing with Dental Phobia and Anxiety

Thankfully, those living with fear of the dentist's chair may have ways to go around their condition. According to behavioral scientists, the following are foolproof ways to keep calm during your next visit:  

1. Proper communication

When you're more aware of the details for the procedures to be done on you, somehow there's a feeling of control that helps make you feel less anxious. 

”It’s common for people to feel some level of anxiety when visiting a physician or dentist,“ according to Kevin Sheu, DDS, professional services director for Delta Dental. “However, if a patient’s anxiety is preventing access to needed care, the individual should have a frank discussion with the dentist before starting any treatment."

"As health care professionals, dentists are trained to treat patients who have anxiety," he adds. "Many safe and comfortable techniques can make dental care less stressful, including the use of medication.”

2. Adapt breathing techniqes

Focusing on proper breathing during an operation or procedure will help ease the tension in your body. Nervous people have a tendency to hold their breath, which in turn decreases oxygen levels and intensifies the feeling of panic. 

3. Listen to music

A large part of the anxiety comes from the sound of the instruments used in dental procedures (i.e. the drill, file, etc.) Save yourself some trouble and cover your ears with earphones to get your mind off the what's happening in front of you.

4. Skip the coffee

We all know that caffeine gives us the jitters. This doesn't exactly bode well when combined with your already-on-edge nerves. For at least six hours before your visit, stick to high-protein and non-sugary food.

5. Time your visit

Schedule your appointment on a date when you're not rushed or under pressure. If you've got an upcoming exam or have to be in a meeting across town in 2 hours, then maybe postpone your procedure for later. 

6. Go with trusted medical practitioners

Another thing that adds to the anxiety is if you don't trust that your doctor is good enough, or if you don't think he cares about your well-being as a patient. The best way to go about this is to go with a tried and tested medical practitioner. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, or read reviews online. Also try to call their office or speak to them personally to get a feel for their approach.

7. Hold a therapy dog 

Yes, really! Therapy animals help boost the chemical oxytocin in the body, also referred to as the so-called "love hormone". Oxytocin is shown to trigger a variety of physical and psychological effects, one of them being the relief from stress.

8. Use a weighted blanket

Like the weighted blankets by Miran, these effective therapeutic tools have long been used by occupational therapists in treating a multitude of behavioral and neurological disorders, such as autism, ADHD, Alzheimer's, anxiety, and OCD (among others).

Therapists are aware that light touch can overstimulate and overwhelm patients with sensory processing dysfunction. With weighted blankets, the deep pressure provides a calming, organizing effect on the brain. Its like the sense of relaxation you experience when someone gives you a big bear hug.

It also aims to alleviate anxiety at the dentist's. One similar therapuetic tool is the heavy lead apron used for some patients while taking x-rays. In fact, a recent study to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics reveals that a relaxing environment, coupled by the comfort of a weighted blanket on the body, significantly descreases stress levels for dental patients.

Dr. Michele Shapiro, from the Issie Shapiro Educational Center in Hebrew University in Israel, did some research on the effects of the sensory environment on the anxiety levels of 35 children during two separate routine cleaning visits to the dentist.

"For many children, a trip to the doctor or dentist is a stressful experience," states their press release. "The sensory environment (i.e., the sounds, smells, and lights associated with the clinical setting) can cause a child's anxiety levels to rise. This is especially true in children with developmental disabilities who may have difficulty understanding the unfamiliar clinical environment."

During the second routine visit, the children were allowed to listen to soothing music and were wrapped in a heavy vest that provided a "hugging" effect.

Weighted blankets promote the production of serotonin and endorphins, the neurotransmitters that are released by deep pressure touch stimulation. Serotonin acts as a calming mediator for the body, and the endorphins act as a happiness stimulator for the brain. Combined, they develop pleasurable feelings and elevates your mood.

Dr. Shapiro's research revealed that the anxious feelings dropped in duration from an average of 3.69 minutes to 1.48 minutes for normal children. For those with behavioral difficulties, their anxiousness went from 23.44 minutes to 9.04 minutes.