Going to the dentist isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some love the feeling of fresh, pearly whites, others deal with crippling dental anxiety. Moving past your fears to receive the best oral treatment is essential for your health.
If you deal with dental anxiety, you understand the difficulty of showing up. Here’s a brief description of the condition and ways to overcome your worries.
What Is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is when you feel stressed about discomfort and pain during your dental appointment. Your fear may vary from mild to severe, but you’ll still likely show up for your appointment. Those with excessive anxiety may have dentophobia. These individuals usually have poor oral health because they skip cleanings and treatments altogether.
You’re in good company if you’re afraid of the dentist — 36% of people have anxiety about dental appointments, with 12% reporting extreme dread. Many worry numbing agents won’t work, or about needles, smells and sounds.
Dental hygiene is critical to prevent periodontal disease — inflammation of your gums and bone — and other serious conditions. For example, studies show poor oral health leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also lower your self-esteem and cause mental health problems.
5 Tips To Overcome Your Fear Of The Dentist
Choosing the best board-certified dentist is your first step toward overcoming dental anxiety. A credentialed professional will have experience helping patients cope with their fears to maintain a healthy smile. While a compassionate specialist and friendly staff make a significant difference, these additional five tips will put you at ease even more.
1. Communicate With Your Dentist
There’s nothing to feel embarrassed about when you have dental anxiety. Let your dentist and hygienist know if you’re stressed or afraid. They will give you exceptional care and attention to ensure you’re comfortable.
It’s also perfectly fine to ask questions about what to expect, their different instruments and any discomfort you might experience. The hygienist will happily answer all your queries and concerns, giving you an idea of what you may feel during cleanings and other procedures. No one wants you to feel pain either — as long as you tell them you’re uncomfortable, they can make adjustments.
2. Bring A Friend
Ask someone to accompany you if you’re on edge about your dentist appointment — after all, your friends and family know you best. They can either wait in the lobby during your cleaning or stay in the exam room with you as support.
A dentist may be able to sedate you gently if you have someone to drive you home. Dental sedation uses nitrous oxide to calm your nerves while you remain alert and communicative. The gas is safe and wears off quickly, but you may feel dizzy or groggy afterward.
3. Try Relaxation Methods
Meditation, breathing exercises and guided imagery are all effective ways to relax before your dentist appointment. These mindfulness methods are simple enough to do with little to no practice — just close your eyes in a comfortable seated position and count your breaths.
Diaphragmatic breathing is particularly beneficial for calming anxiety. You’ll want to breathe deeply into your belly, feeling each rise and fall with your hand. This breathing technique slows your heart rate, decreases muscle tension and oxygenates the bloodstream.
4. Arrive Early
Rushing to your appointment will only add to your stress. You’ll get yourself worked up if you think you’ll be late, which will feed your fears tenfold.
Time your day just right so you arrive at your dental appointment early. While you want to avoid getting there too early, signing in five or 10 minutes ahead is just enough time to decompress with some mindfulness exercises.
5. Schedule The Next Appointment Before Leaving
Regular dentist appointments are critical for recognizing and treating oral health conditions early. According to the American Dental Association, some visit the dentist once or twice annually, depending on their recommendation.
When you have dental anxiety, it’s best to book your next appointment before leaving the office. You’ll be less inclined to schedule something if you wait until days later. Having an appointment on the books for six months or a year out improves your chances of showing up for another cleaning.
Easing Dental Anxiety Improves Your Oral Health
Take a deep breath — a visit to the dentist is nothing to worry about. A generous staff will always help you through it and there are several strategies you can utilize on your own. Just remember — your best chance at optimal oral health starts by showing up for a cleaning.