Oral health is just as important as regular exercise and a balanced diet when it comes to our overall well-being. However, people are less likely to visit a dentist than go to the gym or create a meal plan for a straightforward reason: dental anxiety.
Dental anxiety is the number one reason why people reschedule or put off a dental checkup altogether. However, when you skip a trip to the orthodontist, you’re just making the problem worse. Without regular access to dental care, you’re more likely to develop dental diseases. Minor issues such as tooth decay and halitosis could progress into more severe conditions and require more invasive treatment.
Don’t wait until the pain is too great or your teeth have fallen out before seeking dental help. Dentists have methods to minimize your pain and make patients feel better. Here are a few ways to manage your dental anxiety.
1. Talk to the dentist
Anyone with a history of anxiety knows how important it is to voice out your apprehensions if only to calm their mind. If you’re feeling anxious or nervous, make it a point to relay your thoughts to the dentist. The dental team will be able to work around your concerns to allay your fears.
It all starts when you book your dental appointment. Don’t forget to tell the receptionist about your dental anxiety. Do the same when you arrive for your appointment. If you’ve had negative experiences in the past, you can share that with the dental team. Ask questions about the procedure.
If you feel extreme pain at any point during the procedure, signal the dentist to stop. Give yourself some time to relax before proceeding with the procedure.
2. Identify your sources of anxiety
Identifying what makes you feel tense and anxious during a dental visit allows you to use the correct coping mechanisms for the stressors. Maybe you had botched dental procedure in the past or the dentist didn’t administer enough anesthetic. If you know what causes your worries, you can talk to your dentist so that they can find a way to minimize your stress.
3. Focus on other things
When you’re anxious about a dental visit, you’re more likely to hyperfixate on the procedure, which can only fuel your anxiety further. Try to distract yourself to get your mind to focus on something other than the dentist. For instance, you can listen to music or an audiobook if you don’t like the sound of dental equipment. You can also use visualization techniques to get your mind to a better place.
4. Find a new dentist
If you don’t like your dentist or don’t trust them enough to give you a painless procedure, it might be time to find a new one who can accommodate your needs. There are many dentists available, and there are a few who specialize in treating patients with dental anxiety. You might have to visit a few dentists’ offices until you settle on one, but your efforts will pay off at the end.
5. Educate yourself
One of the root causes of fear is ignorance. A roomful of sharp and scary-looking tools and gadgets can be enough to strike fear into your heart. One way to ease your worries is to familiarize yourself with standard dental tools and techniques.
You could ask your dentist to give you a tour of the tools and devices they’re going to use during your procedure. Once you understand that these tools are not meant to cause harm, you can proceed free of stress and worry.
6. Relax and meditate
Your body takes after your mind, so it makes sense that your muscles start to become tense if your mind is filled with stress and anxiety. Try to use relaxation and meditation techniques to calm your thoughts.
For starters, do some breathing exercises and count your breaths. Don’t rush through your breathing and inhale and exhale slowly. You can repeat this as many times as you need before and during your dental appointment. Next, take a quick body check. Think of your body’s different parts one at a time. Start with your feet and work your way up to your head.
We hope these pointers will help you manage your dental anxiety. Don’t forget that your dental anxiety is affecting your overall health, and you need to work through your concerns so that you can receive the dental care you need. Your fear of the dentist is all in your head, but a toothache can have real-world consequences.