Is that dentist visit scheduled for next week having you waking up in beads of sweat in the middle of the night? Is it haunting you every waking minute of your life? Is your answer to both questions a resounding ‘yes’? You may very well be suffering from dental anxiety. However, since dentist visits are as important as any other health checkups, learning how to cope with it sure sounds like a great idea. In this article, we provide you with a complete guide to coping with dental anxiety, so you can be the bravest you’ve ever been on your next dental visit.
Coping With Dental Anxiety
A study in the National Library of Medicine highlights that dental fear and anxiety (DFA) is a widespread issue. It identifies the prevalence rates as 15.3% for general DFA, 12.4% for high DFA, and 3.3% for severe DFA within the sampled group. Needless to say, you are not alone if you fear the dentist. The good news? The following tips will help you learn how to cope with dental anxiety, so you can stay on top of your oral health.
Understand your dental anxiety
So, you already know that these visits give you the nerves. That’s a good first step. The next thing to do is figure out why. Is it a scary experience from when you were a kid? Or maybe the thought of pain freaks you out?
Take a moment to think about your feelings towards dental visits. Ask yourself what about the appointment causes anxiety. Is it the fear of pain, the sounds of the drills, or feeling out of control? Do you still bear scars from one of your former visits to the dentist? The answer is going to be your starting point to coping with dental anxiety.
Communicate openly with your dentist
Before you even open wide, open up about your fears. A chat with your dentist can do wonders. They’re there to help, not just with your teeth, but with your comfort, too. They can tweak things to make the experience less intimidating for you.
Reach out to experts such as the dentist Dr. Cutropia and others you trust and have them guide you through your fears. This can be one great way to take back control of your dental health and read yourself of these phobias for good.
Use breathing and relaxation techniques
Deep breath in, slow breath out. Simple, right? The good thing about these techniques is that they work. Proof? There’s this report published in the Nature Journal in 2023 that established so. There are all kinds of powerful breathing exercises for anxiety, including online breathwork classes you can join for regular practice. And remember, the more you practice the better you become at using them and in turn, calming your anxiety.
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But if deep breathing isn’t for you, then you’ll find great alternatives in mindfulness meditation. This is a practice where you focus on being present in the moment and observing thoughts and sensations without judgment. You can use calming music and sounds. Also, paying attention to various parts of the body and consciously relaxing them can reduce tension. Bottomline? There are many ways you can relax throughout the procedure.
Distractions can be a great ally when dealing with dental anxiety. So, you can sit down in the dental chair with your favorite playlist, calming nature sounds, or a motivation podcast playing in your ears. This can also help eliminate the noise at the dentist that may contribute to your anxiety.
But if by some chance music or podcasts aren’t your thing, there’s also keeping your hands occupied. A stress ball? Maybe a fidget spinner? Or even a spinning anxiety ring. Squeezing or spinning these can help release nervous energy and keep your mind off the dental work.
You can find plenty of fidget tools and anxiety rings here.
Consider sedation dentistry
Sedation dentistry is all about the medical pros using medication to help you relax during dental procedures. There’s a whole universe of options out here. There’s laughing gas that makes you feel light and floaty, and a mild pill that eases you into a relaxed state.
In some cases, it might be IV sedation for a deeper calm. Whatever you and the dentist decide to go for can go a long way in significantly reducing anxiety levels. The key here is to have an open conversation with your dentist. They can walk you through the options and help you choose the one that aligns best with your anxiety level and the type of dental procedure you’re having.
Schedule your appointments wisely
Choosing the right time for your dental appointment can make a huge difference. When you’re having dental anxiety issues, you need to take your time so the process doesn’t feel rushed.
So, picking a time when you’re usually more relaxed – maybe a quiet morning or a less hectic afternoon – can set the tone for a smoother experience. This way, you’re not adding external stressors to your dental anxiety, making the whole experience more manageable.
Take small steps
If dental anxiety fazes you at times, you don’t need to go 0-100 in 10 seconds. Go slow. How about you start with a routine cleaning or check-up? These low-stress visits can help you build confidence and familiarity with the dental environment.
Once you’ve had a few positive experiences with these smaller appointments, you’ll likely find that the idea of more involved procedures feels less overwhelming. It’s all about taking it one step at a time and gradually increasing your comfort level.
Bring a support person
Having someone you trust by your side can make a world of difference. This could be a family member, a close friend, or your partner – someone who knows you well and understands your anxiety.
They can provide emotional support, hold your hand, or just be there as a familiar face in an unfamiliar environment. Their presence can be incredibly reassuring. It may mean an extra layer of comfort and security as you face your dental appointment.
Educate yourself about the procedures
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to conquering fear. Root canal? Dental implants? Whitening? Spend some time learning about the dental procedure you’re facing.
Understanding what to expect – the steps involved, the duration, the purpose – can significantly reduce fear of the unknown. Many dental clinics have resources or can explain procedures to you.
This education demystifies the process and helps you feel more in control and less at the mercy of the unknown.
Dental anxiety doesn’t have to stand in the way of that beautiful smile and good breath. This guide for coping with dental anxiety has given you some pretty good ways to help you get rid of this phobia once and for all, or maybe bit by bit. Remember, your pace!
There will be times when you’ll feel out of depth. No sweat. That’s where the pros come in. Reach out to them and let them show you the way. Their wisdom could go a long way in helping you fight your anxiety and developing all-round better dental health.