If even the thought of going to the dentist quickens your heartbeat and makes you break out into a sweat, you are not the only one! Many people share this fear, and in fact, coping with dental anxiety is so common, there’s actually a term for it — dentophobia. We’re not making that up!
Unlike other fears, however, such as being afraid of spiders, you can’t simply avoid going to the dentist like you can run away when you spot a web. Doing so would be detrimental to your oral and overall health. So what do you do? Well, while you might not be able to escape the need for dental care, there are ways to cope with the anxiety that comes with it.
If you struggle with dental anxiety, follow these tips to ensure a stress-free visit to your dentist:
#1: Ditch Dental Anxiety by Being Upfront
The best way to deal with your fears is to share them with your dental team. There’s truly no need to be embarrassed. Like we said, you are not the first person to stress out over taking a seat in a dentist’s chair!
Have an upfront conversation about your anxiety from the get-go and explain any past bad experiences that may haunt you. A good dental team will understand and accommodate you to help ease your concerns. Whether it’s talking you through the steps being taken, letting you take timeouts if necessary, or periodically asking if you’re doing okay, good communication with your dental team will allow you to feel more informed and in control, and in turn, more comfortable.
#2: Distract Yourself from Dental Anxiety
Sometimes dentist offices offer built-in distractions, from TVs to magazines to calming pictures on the ceiling. However, if these are not enough to preoccupy your mind, ask if you can bring your own dental distractions along. Wear headphones to listen to your favorite tunes, podcast or audiobook. Or, bring a tablet to watch a movie, level up, or keep your binge streak alive by streaming that latest series you love.
#3: Cope with Dental Fears Using Calming Techniques
Just as with other anxieties, practicing relaxation techniques can help you sit back and, well, relax. Try squeezing a stress ball, concentrating on breathing slowly and relaxing your muscles from head-to-toe, visualizing your happy place, or repeating a calming mantra, like “I love having fresh breath and a healthy smile”. Okay, maybe that’s not the phrase you’d choose, but you get the idea.
#4: Ask About Sedation to Stop Dental Stress
During your upfront conversation, be sure to ask if there are sedation options that your dentist may recommend to ease your anxiety and help you relax. Nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas) is a common go-to choice that can help beyond just making you giggle! Your dentist may also prescribe an oral sedative to take prior to your visit, or use local anesthesia for a stress-free procedure.
#5: Nix Dental Anxiety with Proper Nutrition
Believe it or not, what you ingest before your appointment can make a big difference in how you feel! Here’s the key: avoid high-sugar foods and caffeinated drinks beforehand which can increase anxiety levels. Instead, stick to options high in protein since these actually have a calming effect. Oh, and don’t forget to brush your teeth after your meal. Sorry, couldn’t help but get that in there!
It’s important not to let dental anxiety get in the way of your good health. Yes, trips to the dentist aren’t exactly fun, but they are necessary, so be sure to use these coping tips to help you stay calm, cool, and collected next time you schedule a visit.
Rest assured, at Weber, Mountford, and Ruskowsk, we understand how you feel and are here to make sure your dental visit is as pleasant and stress-free as possible. If you’re worried about coming in for your appointment, reach out to our team. We’ll help you through the process and do whatever we can to keep you comfortable and relaxed. We are here for you!