Find your heart pounding and palms sweating as soon as you step into the office? You’re not alone – children, teens, and adults alike all share dental anxiety, whether it’s minor or totally incapacitating. No matter the level of your anxiety, it may share a common source. A new study reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last month discussed how the brain responds to common dental office stimuli.
How Dental Sounds Trigger Brain Activity
It’s common sense that dental drills can lead to patients’ nerves skyrocketing, but no studies had ever been performed to back that tendency up with data. Now, scanning patients’ brains with a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) has shown how they react to different sounds often heard at the dentist’s, like drilling and suction. Those who were in the low-fear group (who said they weren’t typically anxious about dental appointments) showed more neural activity in the primary auditory areas of the brain than with neutral sounds. And those who were in the higher-fear group responded in a totally different part of the brain, a region associated with learning and memory. This shows that cognitive behavioral therapy could play a significant role in improving serious dental anxiety.
Between 9-15% of Americans put off trips to the dentist out of anxiety. If you’re a part of this number, it’s time to make a change. By skipping exams, you risk more serious dental problems, which will require more uncomfortable and invasive treatment. The end result is even worse dental anxiety, which only continues the harmful cycle.
Learning to Love the Dentist’s Office
Even highly fearful patients can change the way they feel about the office. Ironically enough, you actually need to spend more time in the office to get more comfortable with it. Think of it as getting better acquainted with your surroundings and with our staff – when you see the office as a relaxing place, you’ll be much more likely to keep up with your regular exams (and avoid gum disease and cavities along the way).
If it’s been more than six months since your last appointment, reach out today.
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