Fear of dentistry or going to the dentist isn’t uncommon. As much as 25 percent of the world’s population is dealing with some form of dental phobia or jitters. Whether you just get a bit nervous about having your teeth cleaned or feel an all-out fear at the thought of seeing a dentist, one thing is for sure: avoiding your dentist’s office isn’t the best option.
When you don’t see your dentist regularly, not only are you at an increased risk for cavities and decay, you’re also at an increased risk for gum disease and complications related to it. How you cope with your dental jitters depends on how severe they are.
Bring Something Soothing or Entertaining
Getting your mind off of the fact that you’re actually at the dentist’s can help you feel a bit more at ease. People don’t say that “time flies when you’re having fun” for no reason. If you’ve got music, a movie or a book to distract you, you might not even realize that a dentist is poking around in your mouth.
Classical music can be particularly soothing when you’re in the dentist’s chair. Some people also enjoy listening to an audiobook or flipping through a magazine. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to check with your dentist first about wearing headphones in the office. Some dentists might not mind, but some find that the headphones make it difficult for them to communicate with you. A dentist who might not want you to wear headphones during your visit might be willing to let you play music over a small set of speakers. It never hurts to ask.
Don’t Arrive Too Early
The early bird might usually get the worm, and your dentist might expect you to be on time for your appointment, but don’t arrive more than a few minutes early. If you’re very early, you’ll end up sitting in the waiting room, and your nerves and anticipation about the visit will only increase.
Instead, see if you can fill out any paperwork in advance, and try to get to the dentist’s office as close to your appointment time as possible. That way, you won’t be sitting and worrying in the waiting room.
Take Deep Breaths
Yoga breathing, which involves inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth, can help calm you down. You might want to try taking deep breaths if you start to feel anxiety about your dental appointment increasing. When breathing, place a hand on your abdomen, so that you can feel yourself taking in air. Inhale for several seconds, feeling your abdominal area swell. Exhale for about twice as long as you inhaled, feeling your abdominal area contract. Repeat about 10 times, or until you feel calmer. You’ll most likely notice that your heart rate has slowed and that you feel more at ease.
Talk to the Dentist First
Your dentist is likely to be as concerned about your mental health and wellbeing as he is about the health of your teeth. Speaking with a dentist before any actual appointment or treatment can help put your mind at ease and help you overcome your jitters.
Ideally, your chat will take place in the dentist’s office, not with you sitting in the dentist’s chair. During the consultation, ask the dentist anything you want about dental care and treatments, and about what you can expect. A dentist should give you a fair idea of what to expect during a visit, whether it’s just a check-up or to treat a concern such as gum disease. If you feel comfortable, you can share your reasons for feeling anxious with the dentist. For example, some people are dealing with dental fear because they had a particularly unpleasant tooth extraction as a child. Others might feel worry about the sounds made by the drills or at the sight of a needle.
No matter the reason for your fear of dentistry, one thing that often helps is to put together plan with your dentist. For example, your dentist might agree to let you take breaks throughout treatment or go out of his way to explain the next step in the treatment process, so that you understand what is going on and feel less threatened.
Consider Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry might not be a cure for your dental fears or anxieties. But, it can be a helpful tool when it comes to getting you into the treatment chair and getting you the dental care you need. Sedation ranges from using nitrous oxide (aka “laughing gas”) to help you relax, to IV conscious sedation. With conscious sedation, you’re not completely under, but will most likely not remember much about your treatment.
If you are interested in learning more about how to overcome your fear of dentistry and whether sedation is a good option for you, talk to Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas, periodontists in Miami, Florida. The periodontists offer sedation dentistry at their practice. They are also happy to discuss each procedure in depth, and provide advice and pointers to help minimize your dental anxiety. Call (305) 447-1447 to schedule a consultation today.