How to Combat Dental Anxiety: 6 Helpful Tips

How to Combat Dental Anxiety: 6 Helpful Tips

Most adults experience dental anxiety on some level. For some, that anxiety is enough to make them avoid going to the dentist altogether. 

But regular dental care is essential for maintaining your oral and overall physical health, and it starts with overcoming your anxiety. With the right clinic and the right advice, you can be well on your way to conquering your fears and preserving your health.

Be Careful Who You Choose

You might feel uncomfortable in your dentist’s care, regardless of their experience or qualifications. And if you’re feeling tense during their service for whatever reason, you’re well within your right to search for dentistry elsewhere. 

Some dentists are experts at treating patients with dental anxiety, utilizing friendly service and calming techniques to make patients feel more at home. If you search long enough and are selective about who you see, you will find someone who alleviates your dental fear.

Show Up Early and Talk Beforehand

Those with severe dental anxiety don’t want to wait until they’re in the middle of an appointment to judge whether they feel comfortable with their dentist. Fortunately, you can contact clinics beforehand to learn more about their staff and dental practices. 

Visiting your dentist before your appointment or before you even schedule one is an excellent way to alleviate dental anxiety. Not only can your questions paint a picture of what tools the staff use and how they try to create a pleasant experience, but they can also build a rapport between you and the dentist. 

Take that time to discuss your dental history with the clinic and give the staff an idea of what led to your dental anxiety. Then, they can adjust their methods to put you at ease with that information.

Practice Your Trustworthy Relaxation Exercises

Many people utilize relaxation techniques to overcome their dental anxiety. While this might not work if you don’t have a go-to calming exercise or live with extreme anxiety, it can be a straightforward and effective method with mild anxiety.

Your relaxation tricks don’t need to be elaborate; any small unwinding method at home or in the clinic lobby can help, including these popular exercises:

  • Quick stretches or yoga before leaving for your appointment
  • Deep breathing exercises at home or immediately before the session
  • Meditation or guided imagery at home or immediately before the session
  • Engaging in a relaxing hobby before leaving for your appointment

Take Someone with You

Overcoming dental anxiety is all about maintaining your relaxation and distracting yourself from the worry. One easy way to achieve both goals is to bring a close friend or family member to your appointment to put your mind at ease. 

Your partner can motivate you in the lobby before the appointment and can even join you during the session at some clinics. Having someone you trust to put your mind at ease or distract you with conversation is an excellent way to make sessions fly by without stress.

Medical Intervention

Relaxation and distractions aren’t always enough to overcome severe dental anxiety. But if none of the above methods get you through your session, you can ask your clinic for general anesthesia or conscious sedation to help you through the appointment.

What is Conscious Sedation?

Conscious sedation won’t knock you out but will relax you while you remain awake and responsive. It is made as a result of combining an anesthetic which blocks pain, and a sedative which promotes relaxation. Most people do not fall asleep while under conscious sedation, but many report not being able to speak.  Because it is used for uncomplicated and quick procedures, an anesthesiologist likely won’t administer the medication. Your attending doctor or a nurse will provide it in a needle or through an IV.  

On the other hand, general anesthesia will put you to sleep but allows the dentist to operate quickly and without interference. 

It’s vital to note that neither method is flawless. For example, you’ll need to arrive at your appointment a few hours in advance for conscious sedation, and general anesthesia is a specialized technique that not every dentist can administer. 

If you don’t want to deal with the drawbacks of anesthesia or conscious sedation, a medical alternative is to take your anxiety medication beforehand. But any of the three methods can improve your dentist visit.

Think About Why You’re Afraid

All dental anxiety stems from something, whether it’s a bad experience with a prior clinic or a fear of something going poorly. But if you can identify the root of your anxiety, you can start thinking of ways to challenge it. 

Of course, identifying specific fears is easier said than done. But many living with anxiety have similar worries and experiences, and the root of your anxiety might fall under these common causes:

  • Fear of pain
  • Anxiety of judgement for dental health
  • Fear of not having control
  • Fear of drilling or sharp objects
  • Anxieties around personal space violations
  • General anxiety disorder

If you identify what’s causing your anxiety, mention it to your dentist. They will know what you can do before the appointment to ease your concern and might have some strategies for putting your mind at rest.

Why It’s Essential to Overcome Dental Anxiety

When you ignore toothaches or push aside regular cleanings and checkups, you’re opening yourself to a litany of health issues, including:

  • Cavity development
  • Untreated gum disease
  • Chronic mouth pain
  • Tooth decay
  • Untreated cracked and chipped teeth
  • Oral cancer

People with dental anxiety tend to write off their fears or ignore mild pain. But even simple tooth cleanings can ward off those mild ailments and catch the major ones before they progress too far. 

It’s essential to overcome your dental fear to remain physically fit. But that hurdle starts with finding the right dentist and the right dental benefits package.

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