If you experience dental anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that almost forty million Americans not only experience dental anxiety but neglect visiting the dentist because of it, which, in turn, can lead to more costly procedures.
Worse, the cause of dental anxiety can vary from person to person. Some fear pain, some loss of control, and others a combination of both. Either of these factors can be exacerbated by negative memories associated with past dental procedures or even certain smells, tastes, or sounds.
Left unaddressed, dental anxiety preventing a patient from regular checkups and cleanings can lead to serious issues. So if this is you, what can you do to feel more comfortable in the dental chair? Here are five ways to alleviate dental anxiety.
Communicate with Your Dentist
If you’re feeling tense or anxious during an appointment, communicate your concerns with your dentist or dental staff. Not only will this help your dentist better understand your needs, but often the simple act of articulating a fear can alleviate tension.
If there’s anything you don’t understand about the procedure–ask! Knowledge is power, and being empowered can help you feel calm.
As a natural reaction to fear, we often hold our breath or begin breathing irregularly. This response can decrease oxygen levels and quickly spiral into more anxiety. Instead, try breathing slowly, paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest. Centering thought on something as physical as our breath is a great way to ground yourself, stepping away from anxious thought. To add to this exercise, try counting each inhale and exhale until reaching ten then starting over.
Listen to Music
For many patients suffering from dental anxiety, the sound of the the drill can be the most terrifying part. Try creating a soothing playlist before the dental appointment and listening to it through headphones.
Establish Hand Signals
If loss of control is the scariest prospect of a dental appointment, then establishing a means of communication via hand signals can help you feel empowered. Communicate with your dentist beforehand about signals you can use to ease or stop the procedure entirely.
Do Your Research
Many patient fears stem from the unknown, or not knowing what exactly a dentist is doing in their mouth. If you fall into this category, there are several ways to fix this. Start by asking questions about the steps your dentist will be taking, and, if you want more information, conducting more research online. But stick to text articles. Some research suggests that watching videos of the procedure can increase anxiety.
For some, however, dental anxiety is simply too difficult to manage, but that doesn’t exclude you from a healthy smile. Sedation dentistry is a safe option that puts you in a relaxed state to help you through your procedure.