Even in a wacky sitcom, it’s doubtful anyone ever uttered that line. We all know that regular dental visits are necessary for our good health… but they aren’t most people’s idea of fun. In fact, it’s completely natural to feel a little anxiety when it’s your turn to sit in the chair.
For some people, however, a trip to the dental offices is an occasion that’s much worse: It can provoke apprehension, dread, even terror. This extreme form of fear is called “dental phobia,” and it is estimated to affect up to ten percent of Americans; lots more—perhaps 20 percent—go to the dentist only when it’s absolutely necessary. Fear keeps many people from getting needed care, and tends to create a vicious cycle where the lack of routine care leads to poor oral health, causing even worse dental issues. But there are a number of ways to control dental anxiety and keep it from hurting your oral health. Here are five tips for overcoming your fear of the dentist.
1) Understand the Issue
The first step in understanding is to explore the causes of dental fear and how they are affecting you. In many people, negative experiences in the past may be causing anxiety in the present. Even non-verbal cues you observed in childhood can contribute toward an avoidance of the dentist in adulthood. But be aware that by avoiding preventive dental care, you are placing yourself at risk for problems that may require more extensive treatment.
2) Talk to Your Dentist
Establishing a good line of communication is essential to making you feel comfortable and relaxed in the chair. Make sure your dentist understands your feelings and is willing to take the time to help you through an appointment. Set modest goals at first—perhaps just an exam or a single filling—and work your way up to more complex treatments, if needed. And set up a “stop” signal, such as a hand gesture, when you need the dental work to pause; this will allow you to catch your breath and reduce the stress level.
3) Prepare for Your Appointment
Try to get a good night’s sleep before your appointment. If you need more time in the morning, don’t schedule your visit too early; on the other hand, if you’re an early bird, try to be the first patient of the day. Ask about a weekend appointment, if that’s easier for your schedule. Avoid stimulants like caffeine before you come in—and consider bringing a friend for moral support.
4) Use Relaxation or Distraction Techniques
Controlled breathing exercises (breathing in and out slowly, or while counting) can calm you and increase oxygen flow to the brain. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques can also help relieve stress. You can practice these and other techniques both in and out of the dental chair. But if you would rather rock out than do yoga, ask if you can bring headphones and pump up the volume. Just don’t start dancing in the chair.
5) Consider Anxiety-Relieving Medications
Besides anesthetics, which relieve pain, other medications called anxiolytics may be helpful. These come in different forms and can produce different levels of sedation. They include nitrous oxide, (“laughing gas”), which induces mild euphoria and amnesia; sedative pills like Ativan® that help you relax; or intravenous conscious sedation, administered into the bloodstream for a deep level of relaxation while you still remain conscious. Talk to your dentist about which medications may be suitable for you.Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from a getting a bright, healthy smile—instead, explore the many ways of dealing with this issue, and get the care you deserve.
To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.