It is not uncommon to have fears or anxieties about upcoming trips to the dentist: most people do, and for some the stress can be overwhelming and even detrimental. But dental visits are essential and simply can’t be avoided, so learning to overcome these stresses is paramount. Here are a few fun tips and tricks to help combat your dental office fears and get you back into that chair with confidence!
Don’t make your choice in dentist arbitrarily: do your homework!
Learn about the dentist you are going to visit before your appointment. Read online reviews or talk to current patients. What do they like about the way this dentist practices? What don’t they like? What should you expect? Coming to the office prepared with an expectation can really help dispel a feeling of being “out-of-your-element.”
Prepare YOUR DENTIST ahead of time
When you schedule your appointment, let the office know of your concerns. Repeat them when you first meet your dental hygienist and dentist: they’ll want to know about your fears so that they can approach your care thoughtfully and patiently. Dentists are trained to handle anxious patients: if they know you’re stressed, they can respond with an increased level of warmth and compassion.
Book an initial check-up first
If this is a new dentist, and even if you’ve vetted them thoroughly, sometimes it’s nice to get to know them a little bit before you undergo any serious dental procedures with them. Book an initial check-up with them first: this way you can log some time in the chair and spend time getting familiar with the office, the dentist and the staff without launching into an invasive procedure.
Choose a pediatric dentist for kids with dental visit anxieties
Perhaps the person feeling anxious isn’t you; it’s your young child who hasn’t spent much time in a dentist’s chair before. That’s okay! Find a pediatric dentist: they’re trained specifically to work with young children who may not have a lot of experience receiving dental care. They can make an extra effort to help your child feel safe and confident, which will also give you peace of mind.
Fear of needles? Numbing gel!
A lot of people have a fear of needles which can make both dental visits and regular medical visits a real struggle. Let your dentist know that you’re stressed about needles: it’s quite likely that he or she can help you out with either a painless injection or the use of a numbing agent. You could even ask your dentist to apply the numbing gel early and poke and prod the area to test the numbness. It’s strong stuff! Once applied you really won’t feel the injection at all.
Ask for numbing gel for other uses, too
Sometimes it’s not just the needle that’s concerning: a general fear of pain can deter a lot of people from wanting to visit their dentist. But a dentist who uses numbing gels can use them for a lot of things, not just for giving injections. Tell your dentist that you have an anxiety about pain and ask them if broader use of numbing gel is something that they might consider for you.
Understand your reaction to pain
Unfortunately, a fear of pain can exacerbate pain. Our stress can make us tense up: when we’re tense, our pain receptors are on high-alert and pain felt from a needle, a drill, or elsewhere can feel heightened. So know yourself. If you’re going to tense up in the dentist’s chair, do what you can to prepare. Experiment with deep breathing exercises. You might even consider learning to meditate if you’re a particularly anxious person: this will help with relaxation in all aspects of your life (not just when you visit the dentist).
Don’t be embarrassed about ANYTHING!
Sometimes anxiety about your dentist’s visit comes from embarrassment. Perhaps your dental health is not all that it should be, you have bad breath, or you’re embarrassed about the general state of your teeth. While it’s totally natural to have these feelings, it is precisely for these reasons that you’re at the dentist’s office at all: to get them fixed! Your dentist has seen it all, and it’s quite likely that your bad breath is nothing compared to what he or she seen and dealt with over the years. So relax. Know that whatever is embarrassing you
Drill stress? Tell your dentist
The dentist’s drill can be a great source of stress for many, especially thanks to the unpleasant sound it makes. The sound alone causes many to tense up, which makes undergoing procedures all the more unpleasant. So let your dentist know that the drill is causing your anxiety. He or she can practice with you turning on and off the drill before it even goes in your mouth so that the sound does not startle or stress you out.
Talk to your dentist about headphones as an option
If practicing with the sound of the drill does not resolve your tension, consider wearing headphones. Many dentists will permit patients to wear headphones in the dentist’s chair if the sound of procedures is otherwise making them uncomfortable. Just make sure your headphones are not so large as to obstruct his work (use insertable earbuds if possible).
Learn about sedation
Sedation can be a great way to help you move forward with procedures if you’re just too stressed otherwise to endure them. Talk to your dentist about the possibility of sedation for your next procedure. Of course, sometimes sedation is the source of stress itself: many patients worry about the feeling of loss of control, or the potential risk of choking while sedated. Communicate these fears to your dentist so that he can explain to you how sedation works and what will happen to your body (and inside your mouth) when you’re sedate. The risk of choking while you’re in the dentist’s chair is virtually non-existent, but having him or her explain it to you can definitely help assuage fears.
Seek outside help
Maybe none of these tips and tricks have worked and your anxieties are still out of control. It might be time to consider seeking outside help for a broader approach to stress management. Talk to a counselor or trained therapist about your fears.
Your dental visit fears aren’t something you have to live with. If you’ve got anxieties, talk to the caring and compassionate folks at About Smile. They’re here to help you set expectations for your visit, learn more about your needed dental procedures, and keep prepared overall so that you can get the necessary and important care that you need!