Considerations for Elderly Patients with Dental Anxiety


It is far from uncommon to have some kind of fear related to visiting a dentist. However, the downside from allowing this fear to hold you from dental visits is that it can greatly impact on your oral health. For seniors, in particular, staying away from your dentist is not a good idea.

For elderly people that have false teeth, they may think that they do not have to go to the dentist often, or at all. However, your dentist makes use of regular visits for more than just cleaning your teeth. If a fear of seeing the dentist keeps elderly patients away, they risk an increased chance of developing gum disease or other oral health issues.

The earlier that these issues are identified and treated, the better… this is why routine visits to the dental office are so important.

Considerations for Elderly Patients With Dental Anxiety - image 1

How To Combat Dental Anxiety

The best way to deal with any kind of dental anxiety is to first identify the cause. For most elderly patients their fear of seeing a dentist comes from five very distinct sources.

In order to better understand the solutions, let’s take a closer look at the five main causes of that fear.

1. Embarrassment

If you are in any way self-conscious about the way your teeth look or if you have bad breath, it is easy to feel some form of embarrassment in the dental chair. What amplifies this is the close proximity to your face that the dentist and hygienist must be in order to do their jobs.

2. Pain

The fear of pain is a very strong one and an extremely common reason used for those who stay away from dental offices. This anxiety may be the result of a negative experience in a previous dental visit. For an elderly patient, this is enough to scare them away for a very long time.

3. Needles

Injections of any kind have a way of making many people anxious. When those needles are supposed to be inserted into your mouth and gums, this becomes a completely different kind of fear. Many older patients find this to be unbearable to deal with during a dental visit.

4. Side Effects

Anesthesia use for dental procedures is a requirement. Unfortunately, the after effects that can range for dizziness, feelings of light-headedness and even nausea are enough to create anxious feelings in elderly patients. The loss of control is the biggest fear at play in this circumstance.

5. Helplessness

Having your mouth clamped open with your head back in a dentist’s chair does have a way of making one feel as if they have little or no control over the situation. It limits your ability to see what is going on and that uncertainty results in a paralyzing fear in elderly patients.

What Are The Solutions To These Main Sources of Anxiety?

This is where your dentist and his or her dental staff can play a big role in helping you feel comfortable during a dental appointment. The key is to communicate your fear early on so that the dentist and dental staff can work together with you to combat those fears.

Here are some suggestions that may become useful in relation to the five main sources of fear:

1. Embarrassment

If the closeness of having your personal space filled with a dentist and dental hygienist brings you to a level of anxiety, maybe this will calm your nerves. They are just doing their job. These professionals are not judging you and are more concerned about helping your oral health than anything else.

2. Pain

If you have stayed away from your dentist for any length of time due to fear of pain, things may have changed considerably since your last visit. Many dental procedures are virtually painless. Methods and technology have created ways to address oral health without the pain.

3. Needles

New technology and changing methods have also improved how injections are administered. In fact, needles are almost a thing of the past now that freezing pens and gels are being used. They can be as effective and get the job done without the need for a needle. However, if you do have to have a needle, there are numbing agents that are available to minimize any pain from a needle.

4. Side Effects

Dentists are more aware that ever of the concerns of elderly patients who have had anesthesia used during a procedure. Patient care and well-being is an important aspect of their work, so they will explain what to expect so that there are no surprises.

If you are not offered a seat after your appointment, request that you can sit in the lobby after your visit until the after effects have worn off. This will make you more comfortable and allow you to relax.

5. Helplessness

Communicating this fear with your dentist is important. The right dentist will talk you through the entire procedure explaining what is going on and what the next step will be. This will remove all uncertainty and help to reduce anxiety, which will allow you to relax about feeling helpless during the procedure.

What Else Can You Do?

Before your dental appointment, discuss your concerns. Let your dentist and the dental staff know that you have a fear and tell them what it is. They will work alongside you to make sure you are comfortable the entire time of your appointment. They want you to feel relaxed.

For elderly patients, even those with false teeth, having an understanding dentist and support staff working with you will not only get you through your appointment, it will help you to beat those fears. Your oral health is far more important than holding on to fears that are keeping you away.


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