Calming Strategies for the Patient with Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is a very real condition that keeps millions of Americans from visiting the dentist annually. Whether it’s fear of pain, cost, or simply the unknown, finding the right dental team is critical in taking steps to achieving the oral health you deserve. Many dentists practice sedation dentistry now, assisting patients in reaching a relaxed state in order to undergo dental treatments comfortably. But there are also other steps you and your dentist can take together to make your visit more relaxing.

According to a recent article from MouthHealthy.org, the following strategies can help ease anxiety when visiting the dentist.

Talk about it.

Sharing your feelings while experiencing anxiety can be a game-changer. Discuss your concerns with your dental team, and you may be surprised at how much better they are able to treat you knowing your needs. You are certainly not alone in your anxiety, and the right dental professionals will have extensive experience working with patients who share your anxiety. Share any previous bad experiences and ask for coping strategies. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing what is going to happen helps alleviate fear. Don’t feel embarrassed about your pain tolerance, and tell your dentist if a local anesthetic isn’t keeping your pain in check.  Finally, establish a signal that lets your dentist know that you need a break. Raising your hand often works well.

Check out.

Sometimes it can help to try to distract yourself during your exam. While that may seem impossible when you’re nervous, there are several techniques that might be worth giving a shot.

  • Wear headphones. Drowning out the sound of the drill and other instruments with your favorite music or audiobook. Some dental offices even have televisions in exam rooms.
  • Occupy your hands by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a fidget spinner or cube.
  • Visualize your happy place, mentally putting yourself at a relaxing beach or garden.

Use mindfulness techniques.

Relaxation starts in the mind, and taking deep breathes can go a long way in helping ease the tension in your muscles. Try these strategies:

  • Count your breaths. Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. You can do this while waiting for your appointment or during breaks while you’re in the dental chair.
  • Complete a body scan. Concentrate on one body part at a time, relaxing the muscles individually. Start with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, you can focus on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck, and so on.

These techniques are not meant to replace sedation dentistry, which has helped many individuals cope with visiting the dentist. Instead, they help compliment the plan that you will, or have, established with your dental team to address your unique needs. Communication is key in working with dental anxiety. When you’re ready, contact us and start the discussion today.

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