Approximately 9 to 20 percent of Americans stay away from the dentist due to fear or anxiety, and that anxiety often leaves patients terrified when they visit the dentist. Just a few of the reasons patients develop dental anxiety include embarrassment, negative past experiences, pain and the fear of losing control. Unfortunately, failing to address dental anxiety can leave patients avoiding care, resulting in serious oral health problems that require even more dental treatment. If you’re worried about your next visit to the dentist, here are some strategies you can use to stay calm.
Discuss Your Concerns With the Dentist
Start by discussing your fears with your dentist. Dentists have many patients who deal with dental anxiety, so there’s no need to worry about what your dentist will think. By communicating those fears, your dentist can address your concerns and customize your experience to reduce anxiety and help you stay calm throughout your dental treatment. Discussing those fears also will give you a better sense of control over your care, which can ease your anxiety.
Utilize Deep Breathing Exercises
To reduce anxiety and stay calm, practice deep breathing exercises next time you visit the dentist. According to Harvard Medical School, deep breathing has the ability to make your body’s natural relaxation response kick in, helping to calm you and relieve anxiety. If you notice that you’re nervous or start tensing up during your dental procedure, start focusing on taking long, slow, deep breaths. Other relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery or meditation, may also be helpful to dental patients dealing with anxiety.
Get Detailed Explanations Before Procedures
It’s your right as a patient to fully understand the dental procedures that will be performed on you, so ask for detailed explanations of what will happen before your procedure. Dentists are happy to explain the procedure to you and they can give you a step-by-step guide to what you can expect. This way there are no surprises when you’re in the dentist’s chair, which can keep you feeling in control and calm.
Ask Your Dentist About Using Medications to Relax
If you’re extremely nervous and deal with severe dental anxiety, talk to your dentist about using medications to help you relax during dental procedures. Anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed before procedures, nitrous oxide is often helpful for helping you relax, or complete sedation may be an option if you have a severe case of dental phobia. Many dentists offer these options to their patients, so ask if medications may be a good alternative to help you receive the dental treatment you require.
Listen to Soothing Music During Your Appointment
Soothing music has the power to calm the mind and body, relieving the tension and stress that you feel when you’re at the dentist’s office. You can start by listening to peaceful music before your appointment. Most dentists are happy to allow you to listen to music during your dental appointment as well, so bring a music player or ask if your dentist provides music for you to listen to during your procedure. As long as you’re able to hear the dentist to follow any instructions, there should be no problem with listening to music. Not only will it help keep you calm and relaxed, it can take your mind off the procedure and your fears.
Most importantly, make sure you’re working with a dentist you trust. When you develop a good relationship and communicate well with your dentist, you’ll find it easier to relax and enjoy a comfortable, positive visit.
Author bio: Dr. Robert Pieters is one of the leading dentists at Schererville and Chesterton Family Dentistry, where it has been treating patients in northwest Indiana for over 20 years. He is also a member of the Chicago Dental Society and the Northwest Indiana Dental Association.