For many, going to the dentist can be more stressful than waiting in line at the DMV, driving through rush-hour traffic, or starting a new job. In fact, about one in five people experience moderate-to-severe dental anxiety, and this fear causes some to put off dental exams until problems like tooth decay, gingivitis, or impacted wisdom teeth become more problematic or, in some cases, dangerous. Younger people, in particular, may even put off making a dentist appointment for years, and only find themselves in a dentist chair when their pain begins to interfere with day-to-day life.
At Infinite Dental Wellness, we realize that dental phobias can often stand between you and the dental care you need. To help assuage these fears, we’ve put together a short list of anxiety-reducing practices, including:
Verbalizing your fears to your dentist is often the best way to overcome dental phobias, and professional healthcare providers should also be willing to lend a sympathetic ear to your anxiety. (If they aren’t, it’s time to find a new dentist!) Is the possibility of pain your greatest fear? Do you shudder at the thought of a drilling sound? Explaining what you hate the most about going to the dentist will help your doctor understand the source of your fear and develop ways to combat it.
Arranging for a way to communicate while in the middle of a procedure also helps to relieve anxiety borne from helplessness and vulnerability. Because you probably won’t be able to talk while the dentist is working in your mouth, a system of hand signals to communicate when you’re okay or need a break will help the anxiety-prone feel more in control of the situation.
Because a lack of knowledge can lead to stress, understanding exactly what is happening during each procedure goes a long way to combating dental fears. Once patients learn how safe most dental work is, the fear of something going terribly awry tends to dissipate quickly. If you care to know, be sure to ask your dentist about the ins-and-outs of your procedure.
Deep breathing exercises work on anxiety of all kinds, not just dental fears and medical-related stress. Simply sit still in a quiet place, close your eyes, and think of nothing but your breath coming in and going out. Keeping your mind free of thoughts is key to this exercise, so try to focus on only your breathing.