Fear of the dentist can be a crippling thing, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
Here is a practical list of 15 things (in no particular order) that you can do to make your next trip to the dentist a little bit easier.
- Make the fear known:
The first thing you can do is to simply tell your dentist that you have this anxiety if you haven’t already. By sharing your fear and making it known, your dentist can take extra care and go the extra mile to help you feel comfortable and relaxed. Just as in any relationship, communication is key to happiness.
- Brush & floss at home:
This might seem a bit common sense, but taking better care of your teeth when you’re not at the dentist can make the time you’re there a lot easier. It will not only reduce the number of future visits, but it’ll improve your confidence concerning your mouth, so it’s a win-win.
- Funny books/podcasts:
If you have a favorite light-hearted audiobook or podcast, it can be a great way to reduce the tension of an appointment and help whisk you away to a place where your fears are powerless. If you’re more a fan of physical books, they can be great to read your favorite in the waiting room (or in the appointment if your dentist approves)
- Practice deep breathing:
Practicing deep breathing can be incredibly effective in reducing stress before and during a procedure. We recommend a simple and methodical breathing technique such as 4-7-8 breathing, which uses timed breathing to help calm your nerves and keep you more relaxed.
- Bring friends & family:
Suffering is done alone, but struggling is done together. It follows that a great way to help your fear is to face it with others. So next time you’re in for a checkup, bring a trusted friend or family member in with you to help support you and take your mind off of your worry.
- Have your dentist explain everything:
When we feel more informed about what is happening to us and why, we tend to feel more secure about it. Asking your dentist to explain what they are doing and what purpose it serves can be very relaxing because it helps you put things into perspective and take away the fear of the unknown.
- Play an active role in the process:
On a similar note, it makes it easier if you can feel included in your dental health. Some examples of this are having a consultation and mapping out a plan to make the most out of your mouth or even playing an active role in how your mouth itself will look such as through Digital Smile Design.
- Watch TV or listen to music:
Similar to the benefits of reading your favorite book or listening to your favorite podcast during a procedure, tuning in to relaxing music or light-hearted television can be equally effective in taking your mind off of what you’re going through. You can even make a dentist playlist and put it on shuffle to get you through those long visits.
- Don’t arrive early:
This will be one of the only times you shouldn’t arrive early for something important. If you have a severe fear of the dentist, the worst part can be waiting for your name to be called. Since it’s often the case that the anticipation of fear is worse than the event itself, arriving on time can make it just that much better to cope with.
- Bring a stress ball:
This next tip is one of the tried and true ways to reduce your anxiety, and it can be just as helpful at the dentist. Squeezing a stress ball when things get tough can help because when fear kicks in, our bodies tense up and the act of squeezing releases energy and helps you relax.
- Calming scents and tasty flavors:
A couple more things that can help you relax next time you’re in the patient’s chair are calming scents and flavors that you love. Telling your dentist your favorite flavors and scents can help them customize the room (if possible) and your fluoride and floss with tastes that you’ll enjoy more than the default mint (unless you’re a mint lover).
- Keep appointments short:
On a more practical note, along with arriving right on time minimizing the duration of your appointments can make it easier to control your fear. For example, instead of having one 60 minute appointment, breaking it up into two 30 minute sessions that make it much easier to deal with if it is possible.
- Work out before the dentist:
This one’s a unique one! Did you know that working out before an appointment can help reduce your stress? That’s because an intense workout releases endorphins, which relax the body and help put you at ease. This can make the cooldown period after a workout a great time to come in for a visit.
- Ask for sedation/laughing gas:
If your anxiety comes from the pain of the work being done, asking for laughing gas or sedation can help you get through a filling or longer procedure. Nitrous oxide can be an effective solution in this regard and can be a great thing to ask for if your dentist offers these more advanced sleep-inducing treatments.
- Form a relationship with the dentist:
Last but certainly not least in how to overcome your fear is forming a great relationship with your dentist. The truth is, a great dentist treats people, not teeth. From consultations to chatting during and after your appointment, getting to know your dentist and seeing them as a friend there to help you rather than a necessary evil is such a powerful thing.
We hope these tips help you see your dentist in a new light and make the process easier. Anxiety around the dentist can be a debilitating thing especially if you’ve had less-than-stellar experiences with oral care, but a great dentist and good calming habits can make a world of difference.
If you’re looking for a dentist who will get to know you and help you as a person to create a smile you will love for the rest of your life, we would love to meet you.
Ready to say yes to a calming and caring dental experience?
Let us know if you have anxiety around the dentist and what you’ve done to make it easier. We’d love to hear your stories and what helped you so we can better help others just like you.