Afraid of the Dentist?
Does your heart start to race even when you make the appointment? Do you feel like you might need sedation as soon as you enter the office? Does the mere word “drill” fill you with dread?Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Here are a few tips to help you deal.
1. Communicate Your Fears.
What they don’t know can only hurt you. So speak up. Dental anxiety is extremely common. Dentists want to know about your fears. So tell them. Express you specific fears about a certain procedure, or fill them in on the fact that you’re mortally terrified of just sitting in a dentist’s chair and that’s why this is your first dental appointment in five years. The more clearly you communicate, the better the staff can help you. They will listen carefully, assure you that your concerns are valid, and explain clearly and carefully just what to expect. Whether they teach you some breathing techniques or just hand you an eye pillow or tell you (good) jokes, the staff wants you to feel comfortable and will do whatever they can to assuage your fears.
2. Try Biofeedback Before Your Visit.
Biofeedback is designed to help you control your body’s stress signals—such as heavy sweating, short breath and racing heart—by connecting electrical sensors to your body and the biofeedback machine.
During the session, electrical sensors help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio), and let you see what your nervous system looks like in a calm state as well as when you’re under stress.
According to WebMd, “The idea behind biofeedback is that, by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what’s going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health.” Therapists will offer you a wide array of ways to control your stress reactions so you can remain as calm as possible when you face your fears—like going to the dentist, for example.
3. Speak Up for Yourself in the Dentist Chair
When you’re in the dentist chair, keep advocating for yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Let your dentist know how you are feeling, no matter how trivial your concern may seem. Many dentists ask you to do this anyway, like requesting you raise your hand to signal for them to pause. If this doesn’t come up, broach the subject and come up with an agreed-upon communication plan before the procedure begins. This way you have a chance to explain that you are in pain, uncomfortable, have a question, need a break, need to adjust or readjust yourself in the chair or anything else you feel the dentist needs to know
4. Customize Your Dental Sessions.
For some people, it is overwhelming to even think about getting through an entire dental procedure. Well, you do not have to complete everything in one session. Unless it’s impossible, your dentist will break up the procedure into plausible sessions to accommodate your request. Remember that you are the client and you can advocate for yourself. You may also consider just taking a break and pausing for a few moments to refresh yourself before moving forward to the next portion of the procedure. Take a moment to take a few breaths to calm your nerves and then continue on with the procedure.
5. Distract Yourself.
Bring headphones and listen to music or watch a movie to block out sound. Bring a book. Just bring something that will allow you to focus deeply on something THAT IS NOT THE DENTAL PROCEDURE. That way you can listen to music or watch a movie or read a book to distract yourself and keep your mind off the dental procedure. Also, some dental offices have a TV or music playing in the background for this very reason. Such distractions ease your anxiety and put you in a calm state of mind.
6. Ask About Medication Options.
Lastly, there is medication. For certain procedures, some sort of sedation is required. For patients who have more extreme anxiety, medication may be the answer. There are types of medication that can be prescribed to alleviate anxiety and allow you to feel rested and comfortable. Ask your dentist if medication is right for you.