You go to the dentist because you want your mouth to stay healthy. However, this simple experience can fill you with dread or even panic if you have dental anxiety or dental phobia. You’ve realized that you shouldn’t feel this fear, but you don’t know how to shake it. So you attend your dental appointments, your heart pounding as you count the seconds until your escape.
Your dental visits shouldn’t feel that uncomfortable. If you suffer from dental anxiety, you can overcome this fear so you can have a more pleasant experience. To get started, follow the strategies listed below.
1. Identify what makes you afraid.
Rationally, you know that you can get through a dental appointment unscathed. Yet some fears persist. Identify why you feel anxious or afraid so you can begin targeting the problem. Common causes of dental anxiety include:
- Fearing the unknown/loss of control: You don’t understand the procedure, nor do you know your dentist very well. And what you don’t know might frighten you. After all, you can’t see what the dentist does in your mouth.
- Fearing dental equipment: People normally develop this fear after hearing a story or having a bad experience. You or someone else experiences excruciating pain because of the dental tools, and you fear them forever afterward. The noise may make you anxious as well.
- Fearing the dentist: Does your dentist look ominous or scary to you? Does the mask make him or her look like a TV villain?
- Dreading gag reflex: If you have a sensitive gag reflex, you may have an awful experience every time you visit the dentist.
- Dreading breathing through your nose: Some people feel smothered if they can only breathe through their nose. If you fall into this category, you may feel fear with the prospect of not being able to breathe properly during your procedure.
No matter what causes your fear, you can overcome it. Simply identify what makes you afraid and then talk to your dentist to discuss your options.
2. Talk to your dentist about the problem.
Many people have dental anxiety, so your dentist has probably dealt with it before. He or she probably knows exactly how to help you. Schedule an appointment just to meet with him or her and then describe your problem. Your dentist will listen, and from then on he or she will make a special effort to help you feel comfortable.
On the other hand, if you hide this problem from your dentist, you’ll suffer silently and needlessly. Don’t wait to give yourself relief. Discuss your anxiety with your dentist as soon as possible.
3. Take breaks during the appointment.
You have the option to take breaks during your dental appointments if the procedure becomes too much for you. Talk to your dentist about this option to warn him or her in advance.
4. Learn everything you can about the procedure.
If you fear the unknown, the loss of control, the noise, or the dental equipment, sometimes knowledge can alleviate that fear. Before your next appointment, sit down at your computer and study the dental procedure in depth. You may find that a simple dental cleaning fascinates you.
As you study, remember to keep a positive attitude. If you begin your research with fear and disgust, what you learn may only cement your fears. Think of this as a learning opportunity, and visualize yourself taking back control as you learn.
5. Have a friend or family member present.
No matter what you fear about the dentist, a loved one’s presence can help you feel calm. Take a sibling, spouse or parent with you, or find a good friend. You should trust this person to have your back – his or her presence should help you feel protected.
6. Try relaxing techniques, like meditation.
Meditation and breathing exercises can go a long way towards alleviating your dental anxiety. After you sit in the dentist’s chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths through your nose. Feel your heartbeat start to calm, and let your body slowly relax. You should feel calmer by the time the procedure starts.
7. Listen to music or watch movies.
Distraction can help you feel calmer, as well. Bring your iPod and listen to music while the dentist works. Many dentists also offer moving-watching services. Ask for a funny or otherwise happy movie to watch during your appointment. You should feel calmer as long as you have something else to focus on.
8. Ask your dentist about sedation dentistry.
If all else fails, your dentist can give you a sedative like laughing gas or valium. These substances control substances in your body that help you feel calm. Your dentist will give them to you orally or intravenously. Consult with your dentist to find the best option for you. Since intravenous sedation involves needles, you may want to consider other options.
Dental anxiety happens to many people, so don’t feel embarrassed if you have it. Don’t feel helpless either – you can overcome it. Use these tips to alleviate your anxiety so you can have a better experience the next time you visit the dentist, and don’t hesitate to contact our helpful staff at Woodcreek Dental Care should you have any further questions about your visit.
Once again I was treated with gentleness and kindness. My dental work was done under sedation. Other than the obvious results afterward, I’m not even sure I was there.
If you are looking for a dentist but are afraid, I strongly recommend Woodcreek Dental. They do a great job with sedation.
As a patient with an overwhelming phobia for all things dental, I am thrilled to have found such an understanding and supportive group of professionals at Woodcreek. Their IV sedation has enabled me to begin much-needed treatment, and I’m actually looking forward to having more work done! Thank you so much!!
I went with the IV sedation and was extremely happy with the work that was provided; I am writing this the day after my procedure – which was extensive. I have no pain and I can tell that great care was taken even though I was completely sedated during the procedure.
Two Thumbs Up!!