Whether it’s an aching in your tooth or burning along your gum line, dental problems will bring you back to the dentist. You’re afraid of the dentist and scared to be around the clinic, frightened by the discomfort you’re confident you’ll experience. But fear not, as dental work can be both painless and helpful, it is a process that leaves you feeling both optimistic and hopeful. If you’re worried about dental anxiety, your solutions to a worry-free appointment are here. Keep reading to learn how to stay calm at the dentist.
Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist?
Is it the pain from a bad tooth being wrenched from your mouth? Or the mere thought of a gaping hole being drilled by a dentist? Sometimes, you might worry about the dull ache of a root canal. That’s the process where the pulp of the tooth is removed and the inside of the tooth cleaned and sealed. And sometimes, pain is downplayed by people, especially those who are fortunate enough to respond the right way to local anesthetics. Other times, your mind might trick you into believing there’s more pain than there is.
The truth is, many people report feeling like they’ve lost control. That’s due to the probing of the mouth and the restricted feeling you get from lying in the chair. You’re in a vulnerable position, so it’s not uncommon to feel more sensitive to stimuli such as touch, sound, and hearing. Often, taking deep breaths and shutting your eyes are good ways to help you stay calm. But if you struggle with dental anxiety, you might feel irritable and angry during the early phases of the appointment. Overall, the resistance translates to a less pleasant dental health experience.
Finally, some patients worry that the dentist might make their problems worse. A concern of this magnitude would occur for patients seeking either cosmetic or restorative dental procedures. The goal is to get your teeth looking brand new. So, if there’s a mistake, the cost wouldn’t justify the expense. Some patients worry that they might not have found the right dentist, and consequently, will go through many in pursuit of the right one.
While you might be reassured by a doctor’s credentials, serious dental anxiety might make your mind wander. And as long as your mind wanders, you have questions that can’t be answered, as well as information that’s always missing. Both problems contribute to greater stress. When you enter the dental office, that stress might be overwhelming. But by the time you sit in the chair, you might not even want to proceed. So, dental anxiety is a major problem contributing to thousands of people choosing not to seek regular dental care.
Even dental surgery, injuries, or severe infections would normally suggest an immediate dental appointment is needed. But, anxiety can be so troubling that you might not want to reach out for help. If that’s the case, follow these steps to stay calm at the dentist, and maybe your experience will be more pleasant this time around.
Read in the Office
The family dentist‘s office will have a waiting room. Take a moment to settle in. Then, browse the selection of magazines after checking in with the receptionist. Reading allows your mind to digest new information. Your eyes pick up the words and trigger thoughts and ideas based on what you’ve read. For example, a seemingly uninteresting article about the climate crisis will give you time to mull over your beliefs, forcing you to ponder your life in a way that causes you to separate from what you find uncomfortable.
Any kind of sustained concentration is a helpful way to treat anxiety, as much of the anxiety comes from worrying about events that you can’t control. You can’t have much control over how you feel in the dentist’s office. But you can control your thoughts by directing them towards a subject of interest. Whether that’s killer bees in Africa or chess grandmasters in Australia, the topics you read about will elevate your mood while reducing anxiety. So long as you take time to relax in the process.
That said, any family physician might admit that the reading selection in a doctor’s clinic isn’t that great. If that’s the case, consider bringing a good book from home. You’ll catch up on reading while potentially forcing yourself to do something that you wouldn’t normally do, as truthfully, many people admit that they don’t read as much as they could. An added benefit is that reading at home first allows you to pick up where you left off at the dentist’s office. That kind of continuation to a specific activity can help you concentrate on something concrete, which is better than focusing on the uncertainties of dental work.
Share Your Concerns with Your Dentist
You might be confused or you might even know for certain. Sometimes there are gray areas concerning emergency dental care that you can’t seem to illuminate. But when it comes to listening to your concerns, you’ll find talking them over with your dentist will save you a lot of trouble. After all, your dentist has plenty of professional experience. Maybe a degree in Dentistry and a proven record of successfully working with patients. So, the answers to your questions lie within your dentist’s head. All you have to do is ask, either during the consultation stage or at any point while following your treatment plan. And, if there is uncertainty, confusion, hesitancy, or frustration, much of it can be settled by bringing your worries to your dentist.
The best way to talk to your dentist is to find as many answers on your own first. This saves you from having to chase down the dentist every time you have a question. From there, patience is critical, as the terms and information your dentist might use will require that you listen carefully and understand fully. During the examination of X-rays, dental records, and treatment plans, now’s not the time to daydream and lose interest.
You can fix much of your anxiety by learning to pay attention to reliable information. Reliable information helps you dismiss information that’s not important. So, listen as your dentist answers your questions. Listening to a helpful voice is a critical first step in addressing feelings of dread and anxiety.
Discuss Your Fears with Family and Friends
Part of dental anxiety comes from feeling like you’re facing the battle of a dental procedure alone. Talking out your fears with your family and friends is a great way to loosen up before your appointments. Even if you’re not yet scheduled, a conversation with people you know will ease your fears as you’re given an objective perspective on what lies ahead. Friends and family alike will reassure you that the dental work before you is nothing to be afraid of. If you’d like, you can even bring your friends or family members with you, as they could benefit from learning about what’s going on with your dental care.
Remember, dental services range from quick and simple to comprehensive and time-consuming. So, whether you need an emergency tooth extraction or treatment for an abscess, any fears you have can be settled through thought-provoking discussion. Like a clinical psychologist, your peers will get you to examine your ways of thinking, helping you to accept that freedom rests in your ability to think clearly. Before you, there is a dental procedure aimed at helping you obtain healthier teeth and gums. The only thing you should fear is not proceeding.
Explore Sedative Options
Modern technology allows for gentle dental care. No longer do you have to put up with traumatizing equipment and loud noises. Much of your experience will be pleasant thanks to the use of local anesthesia. Whether you have cavities or need a root canal, a local anesthetic will be applied to the affected area to numb the nerves. The process allows dentists to quickly conduct serious procedures that don’t require as much anesthetic.
For even more serious procedures, your dentist may employ the use of nitrous oxide sedation. Often, referred to as laughing gas, a mask will be placed over your mouth and you’ll be asked to inhale, during which time you’ll gently become heavily relaxed without falling asleep. For procedures such as root canals, extractions, and getting a tooth implant, a dentist might use nitrous oxide in addition to a local anesthetic. The goal for both treatments is to help you get through a procedure without pain or discomfort. So, the anxiety you feel today won’t affect you as much. Not once you’re under the effect of dental sedation.
In rare cases, an adverse reaction to caffeine and anesthetics could leave you calling a family lawyer after a freak emergency. But while it might take too much effort to sway you from your morning cup of coffee, an abundance of caffeine is sure to give you the jitters. When it’s time for your appointment, you want to be relaxed and comfortable, not sweating and nervous, as caffeine not only has an impact on your mental health, but beverages like coffee and sugary sodas will also stain your teeth while souring your breath, two mistakes that will earn you strikes from your dentist, anyway. If in doubt, imagine arriving at your dental appointment with heavy amounts of caffeine in your bloodstream. Anyone who’s consumed large amounts of caffeine would experience heart palpitations and feelings of dread about having their teeth worked on.
It may not seem like it, but serious complications can arise when other drugs are introduced into a dental procedure. Caffeine, as a stimulant, speeds up your heart rate, and along with an already nervous state, can make a normal situation go suddenly wrong, particularly if you have heart problems along with anxiety. You’ll want to avoid the beverage altogether, at least until several hours after the end of your procedure.
Get Plenty of Rest Before Appointments
It’s the day before you visit the family dentistry clinic. Would you rather come clear-headed and in a good mood? Or dazed and irritated, unable to sit patiently through an hours-long procedure? The important thing to remember about dental procedures is that your attitude plays a role in how well dental care works out. Of course, your dentist will likely be successful either way, but simple decisions like getting enough sleep will ensure you’re not unwell and unstable the day of the appointment. The unfortunate truth is that if you have dental anxiety and don’t sleep, you’ll be a nervous wreck by the time you’re ready to go through with a procedure. Better to get at least seven to eight hours as recommended, so you can arrive feeling more relaxed and calm. It is even more important to do so if you have multiple appointments scheduled over a short period.
Getting to bed is a challenge that’s getting harder for adults as the years go by. On one hand, you have to worry about the daily frustrations and stressors that seem unresolved by the time you’re ready for bed. Then, you have to worry about everything from health scares to problems with your household, to how you manage your budget to what school you’re going to send your kids to next year. With no shortage of questions, priorities, demands, and responsibilities, the anxiety people feel carries on through the day. The result is sleepless nights and plenty of tossing and turning.
Insomnia is a serious condition that affects millions of people. To combat insomnia, get in the habit of switching off blue light several hours before you go to bed. That includes cell phones, laptops, televisions, and any other digital devices that give off blue light. Additionally, you’ll want to cut off caffeine like mentioned before and be sure to get plenty of exercise throughout the day. That way, you’ll be weary and ready for bed by the end of the night. Take the steps needed to guarantee you’ll sleep today. And the next day, you’ll be on your way toward a brighter smile.
Your dental care should be one of the most important priorities of your life. But dental anxiety might make it difficult for you to seek help. You know your teeth deserve to look and feel as clean and fresh as you want. So, relieve anxiety by getting plenty of sleep beforehand. Avoid caffeine and discuss your fears with friends and family the day before your appointment. Take the steps today to feel calmer tomorrow. And hopefully, you’ll have no problem going to the dentist in the future.