Few people look forward to a visit to the dentist, but for some, those twice yearly visits are more of an ordeal than others. Dental phobia or anxiety is incredibly common, reportedly affecting up to 20% of Americans, according to WebMD. Some symptoms include trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam, feeling nervous in the waiting room, and increased anxiety at seeing a dentist or dental instruments.
It’s a vicious circle as with less frequent visits to the dentist, you’ll be more likely to develop dental problems, and have far more appointments scheduled in later life. If you want to get on top of your dental anxiety, start with these 3 ways to stop fearing the dentist…
A problem shared is a problem halved. As with any other form of anxiety, sharing your fears about the dentist is the first step in resolving it. Plus, your dentist and dental team will be much better able to cater for your needs if they understand them.
- Make your worries known from the beginning, telling both your dentist and reception staff so that they are aware – they may even have tips for coping that you hadn’t thought of.
- Ask questions! It will help you to regain a feeling of control and be prepared for what is to come.
- Tell your dentist if you struggle with pain under local anesthetic. They will be able to agree a signal with you if you need to pause the procedure and help to make the experience more comfortable. Did you know that some practices offer sedation during procedures? If this sounds like an option you may like to explore, look for local sedation dentists and have a chat to them.
Create a Distraction
Not a literal one, so that you can make a swift exit. Distract YOURSELF from anything that may make you anxious at the dental practice.
- Sights: If the sight of a needle is enough to make you run a mile, look at something else. Some surgeries have TV screens to help distract you. Others are designed to not even look like a surgery so you can feel relaxed.
- Sound: Sound of the drill causing more pain than the drill itself? Wear headphones and listen to a new album or podcast. Make it something really interesting so you’ll want to focus on it.
Easier said than done, right? Well it doesn’t have to be. You’ve probably heard the phrase “mindfulness” thrown around a few times by now, but what does it actually mean? Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique of calmly focusing attention on the present moment. It is essentially the opposite of the distraction method but can be an effective way of overcoming anxious feelings.
- Breathe! Before the procedure, calm yourself by focusing on your breath. Take a big breath, hold it in and then release it slowly – and repeat. This will relax your muscles and slow down your heart rate.
- During the procedure, focus on other muscles in the body with progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.
Unfortunately, your dental anxiety is unlikely to go away over night, but following these few simple steps can definitely be the start! Don’t let your mind stop your body from being healthy.