Dental anxiety is one of the most common causes for avoiding dental visits. In fact,20% of Americans say that they will only seek a dental visit when it’s absolutely necessary or out of fear.
However, missing your regular dental visits might deteriorate your oral health in the long run, and avoiding dentists during a serious situation like tooth loss or decay is simply unwise.
Here, we will share 8 of the best tips to overcome dental anxiety, so you can finally make another visit to the dentist for your own well-being.
1. Know your own fear
The best way to overcome your anxiety is to explore your own feelings and recognize them. Generally, dental anxiety is triggered by four main types of fear:
- Feeling not in control: perceived loss of control when you lie on a dental chair can be overwhelming, often associated with the feeling of helplessness.
- Fear of pain: very common, and also very natural. However, some people have lower pain thresholds than others, and might be overly afraid of going to the dentist.
- Embarrassment: especially about your oral health and cleanliness. You may have missed years of teeth cleaning at the dentist or have a lot of untreated tooth decay. Remember, these dental specialists are professionals, and most of the time, they have seen worse.
- Negative past experiences: another common reason in patients with dental anxiety. Sometimes past experiences with the dentist can be overly painful, some might feel they have been mistreated or even cheated. These past experiences might be justified, but it shouldn’t be a presumption for future dental visits.
- Cost: yes, dental treatments can be (very) expensive, and yes, for many people, financial anxiety is anything but baseless fear. However, remember that a visit to the dentist can reduce the risk of significantly more expensive treatments and procedures later. Some dentists might offer payment options, even when your insurance doesn’t cover the treatment.
2. Bring someone to accompany you
Let a friend, a family member, or a significant other accompany you during this dental visit. Sometimes the dentist might let this person accompany you for the whole treatment, especially after you’ve let them know about your anxiety.
Obviously, go with someone who doesn’t have dental anxiety. This person can offer support and might be able to convince you to go through the experience.
3. Find the right dentist for you
A huge aspect of overcoming your dental anxiety is finding the right dental office that can work with you.
There are several factors to consider here. First, check out how the staff or receptionist is accepting your call. You might as well mention your dental anxiety issue and observe how they react, if they are supportive and sympathetic, they might be the right one for you. You can then schedule a visit to check out the place.
Next, check out the environment. Is it clean and professional? Is the decoration and color choices represent calmness or rather, sharpen your anxiety?
Last but not least, check the credibility of the dentist. Having a professional and experienced dentist to treat you can give assurance, which might overcome your dental fear. It is also important to observe the attitude of the dentist, even after his/her credibility. A good dentist might also be equipped with techniques and methods to help you with this dental anxiety.
4. Communicate your anxiety
During your first appointment, or if possible, before you set up an appointment with the dentist, be upfront about your feelings and anxiety. This is a good step to build trust, while you can also gauge whether this dentist is a good fit for your situation.
On the other hand, this can give the dentist the right information about you, and so he/she can plan ahead for the right approach.
Some dentists might offer a special method like dental hypnosis or NLP to help your anxiety. In general, however, the dentist will at least would let you take a break during the treatment or procedure with a signal agreed beforehand.
5. Pick your schedule wisely
Dental anxiety doesn’t typically start during the procedure, but there can be a significant buildup when you are waiting for your turn at the dentist’s office. So, it is best to schedule your appointment at a less busy time slot so you can meet the dentist immediately, engage in a conversation, and finally, start the treatment.
For example, ask your dentist if you can be the very first patient in the morning or right after a lunch break. If you have communicated your dental anxiety issues beforehand, generally the dentist or the receptions would be willing to help.
6. Use distractions and relaxation techniques
The idea of distraction is to keep your mind’s focus away from your inner fears and anxiety, so you will feel less anxious. You can listen to your favorite music, watch a video, fiddle with a stress ball, and so on. Some dental offices will also provide these distractions on purpose, like having a television set at the ceiling so you can watch TV during the treatment.
Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, yoga, or even a workout just before your dental appointment can also help in overcoming anxiety.
7. Seek a professional
When all else above fail, your fear might be rooted in a deeper cause, and so you might want to get help from a psychologist and/or psychiatrist to address your dental anxiety.
Last but not least, if your case is severe, ask your dentist whether using sedatives are appropriate for your case. This can include local anesthetic, IV sedation, oral medicine, or even nitrous oxide. Discuss with your dentist for your possible options along this line.
We at Markham Smile Centre is a team of professional dentists with experience in handling dental anxiety patients. Our team will make you feel at home, while our dentist will work together with you in finding the best possible solution for successful treatment or procedure.