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Fear of Anaesthesia

It is incredibly common for adults to develop a disliking for the sights, sounds and sensations associated with the dentist’s office from an early age, often as a result of an unpleasant experience during childhood.

While nobody really enjoys sitting back in that uncomfortable chair and opening their mouth as wide as it can go, some people can experience strong feelings of fear and anxiety at the mere thought of doing so.

In instances when the problems run deeper than a simple worry, patients can often form a phobia – something that has a wide variety of symptoms and causes.

Are people afraid of anaesthetic?

Unsurprisingly, a large number of individuals experience anxiety attacks and worry at the thought of going numb or being put to sleep, particularly for the first time. Others are afraid of feeling powerless and unable to move or communicate with their dentist should they need to.

In some cases, patients’ phobia revolves around the thought of waking up too soon during a procedure and feeling the pain, or seeing something graphic.

Although this may be a psychological issue, some adults who have undergone orthodontic work in the past have unpleasant memories of having an operation carried out without enough anaesthetic, so are worried this may happen again.

How can this be treated?

One of the main challenges in this scenario is being able to separate actual events from adapted memories. Many people who use the internet on a regular basis find they are bombarded with inaccurate information regarding certain medical procedures, which could make anxiety worse.

Those who believe anaesthetic has had a limited effect may think this for a number of reasons. Firstly – and most obviously – this could actually have been the case. Many patients are unaware it is simple for professionals to top up the local anaesthetic during an operation if they can still feel some pain.

In addition, a few individuals may be allergic or immune to the substance, but this is something that – along with waking up during a procedure – is extremely rare.

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, with most phobias, it is not uncommon for the fears to be escalated and for people to focus on the worst case scenario possible, while the idea surrounding anaesthesia is usually much more daunting than the use of the substance itself.

A high number of individuals can suffer from panic attacks in this situation and find it difficult to relax in the dentist’s chair, experience problems with breathing, rapid heart rate and an overwhelming sense of panic.

What is the suggested solution to this issue?

Counselling is usually an option for those people who suffer from a particularly deep-seated phobia, despite the fact that the problem is often as simple as having limited access to accurate information.

This is often the case when the patient has not spent enough time discussing the treatment with their dentist, or the individual has found it difficult to build a trusting relationship with the professional.

Members of the public who feel worried about their lack of rapport with their dentist could “shop around” until they find one they feel more comfortable with.

One of the most important factors for people to remember is the fact that the process of receiving anaesthetic is surrounded by an abundance of poor information, while it is almost 100 per cent certain that the substance is effective if injected in the right way.

Those patients who do not feel numb usually experience this sensation due to individual differences, but most professionals will be happy to administer more if an individual is uncomfortable.

Furthermore, those people who are stressed or anxious may not feel the anaesthetic as well as those who manage to keep a cool head in what can be an extremely daunting experience.

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