There’s a reason “It’s like having teeth pulled” is the phrase used to describe a miserable experience: many people absolutely dread going to the dentist. In fact, 36% of people are estimated to have some form of dental anxiety, and 12% struggle with extreme dental fear.
Going to the dentist may not be your idea of a good time, but that doesn’t mean it has to cause you anxiety or worry. There are definitely things you can do to help yourself overcome dental anxiety and make your trips to the dentist a little less…well, “like having teeth pulled.”
Talk about it.
Don’t be afraid to tell your dentist about your dental anxiety. Your dentist should be able to work with you to help you feel comfortable and safe. A dentist helping to manage your anxiety will be extremely clear about what is going to happen in a procedure, perform the procedure at a pace you’re comfortable with, and give you a cue (such as raising your hand) to indicate you need a break. (As a side note, if your dentist brushes off the information without trying to help, you might want to look for a new dentist!)
Know the options for pain management.
For many people, dental anxiety is centered around one main thing: pain. There are various things your dentist can do to help assuage your fears around the pain you might experience while receiving dental treatment. For example, if you’re afraid of needles, your dentist might suggest using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help you relax. Some dentists even offer sedation dentistry, allowing you to sleep through the entire procedure.
Practice calming techniques.
There are things you can do, even while sitting in the dentist’s chair, to actively manage your dental anxiety. Breathing techniques can help relax your nervous system. Bringing your own headphones, complete with a playlist of your favorite music, or a funny book or podcast, can help take your mind off the procedure and distract you from the anxious feelings.
Don’t go alone.
If you’re truly afraid of what your trip to the dentist will bring, then ask a friend or family member to come along to offer support and comfort before, during, and after the procedure. A calming, familiar presence can do wonders for helping you to feel less anxious.
Explore payment options.
For some people, dental anxiety centers around the potential cost of their dental care. Dental work can be expensive, especially if you need corrective or restorative work done. If you struggle with this aspect of anxiety, be sure to talk to your dentist’s office about what payment options are available and what your insurance will or won’t cover. Knowing that you have options that will work with your needs could help you feel better about the whole thing.
Seek professional help.
Any form of anxiety should be taken seriously, and if your dental anxiety is preventing you from a much-needed trip to the dentist, you might consider speaking with a counselor or psychologist to help you overcome your fears. This could be especially helpful if your dental anxiety stems from a past trauma, such as a bad experience at the dentist as a child.
Practice good oral health at home.
When you take good care of your teeth, you’re less likely to need the sort of dental work that might inspire more anxiety. Brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and avoid sugary drinks or foods that cause damage to teeth. Along with this, make sure you stick to any regimen your dentist may suggest. If you do these things, you’ll be able to go to the dentist with confidence, knowing that you’ve cared for your teeth properly.
Dental anxiety is a very real problem for many people, but it’s not impossible to handle or overcome. Talk to your dentist about your dental anxiety, and use these tips to help you feel a little more comfortable at your next trip to the dentist. Remember: regular dental appointments are extremely important to maintaining your oral health, so don’t let your anxiety keep you out of the dentist’s chair entirely!