How to Help Dental Anxiety
If you get nervous just thinking about going to the dentist, you are not alone. You may be scared that the dental treatment will hurt or you may not have been to the dentist in some time and are afraid of what will be found.
Whatever is your situation, your dentist should make sure that not only is your dental health taken care of but also your emotional health.
Like almost anything else in life, the more you prolong not going to the dentist, the more likely it is you will develop a dental problem. Remember, prevention is always the best treatment so seeing your dentist regularly will actually make your dental appointment experience much easier and less stressful.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Anxiety
People with dental anxiety may experience:
- Racing heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Visible distress, crying, or signs of panic
- Withdrawal or using humor or aggression to mask anxiety
Causes of Dental Anxiety
- Fear of pain: fear usually stems from past experience at the dentist’s office
- Trust issues with the clinic
- Fear of injections or fear that injections won’t work
- Fear of anesthetic side effects
How Can Dental Anxiety Affect Oral Health?
Avoiding the dentist because of anxiety can worsen the dental problem you may have, resulting in a greater need for emergency care and complex treatment.
Most dental diseases are lifestyle-related and preventable. Dental checkups, x-rays are preventive measures for any dental diseases. By avoiding going to a dentist, not only are you inviting more complex treatments but also missing out on how to keep your oral health in check.
Strategies To Ease Your Dental Anxiety
Here are some strategies you can use at your next appointment to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile.
It is important for you to share your feelings – this makes a world of difference. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, let your dentist know. If your dentist knows how you are feeling, they will be in a better position to help you through your dental treatment.
Do not be shy. Remind your dentist at your appointments how you feel and do not be afraid to ask questions. By knowing what to expect will help with the fear of the unknown.
Another helpful idea is to agree with your dentist prior to treatment on a signal that you can use to indicate that you need a break. A common signal is raising your hand.
Distracting your mind from the dental treatment may seem difficult but there are some easy ways to do so.
Wear headphones and listen to music or an audiobook. This will help decrease how much you hear the dental drill and will distract your mind. You may even find yourself lost in the music or book you are listening to.
Occupy your hands by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object. Imagine your happy place and picture yourself at a relaxing beach.
- Be Mindful
Relaxation actually starts in the mind; knowing this, try breathing exercises to help relax tension in your body.
- Count your breaths
Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Do this five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks while you’re sitting in the dental chair.
Concentrate on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. This is called body scanning. 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 down the rest of your body.