Submitted by Dr. Jeff Reynolds.
If you start to feel nervous in the waiting room of your dentist, you’re not alone. Many people experience some levels of anxiety surrounding their visits to the dentist.
While dental exams and procedures may not be the most pleasant experience, keeping your smile healthy is worth the increased heart rate or sweaty palms. However, for those whose anxiety is a barrier for regularly visiting the dentist, here are a few tips on how to remain calm while your teeth receive care.
First, tell your dentist how you feel about your appointment. With your feelings in mind, your dentist can better inform you throughout your visit. If you like to know what’s happening during the appointment, they can explain the procedure to you. If you would rather not know, your dentist can tell you when to close your eyes or distract yourself. Work on a signal with your dentist – for instance, if you raise your hand during your appointment, it could mean you need a break, or something hurts. Don’t be afraid to communicate what you need for a successful trip to the dentist’s chair.
Besides opening wide, you likely aren’t required to participate in your appointment too much. This allows for distractions if you don’t like the feeling of dental tools in your mouth or the sound of them. You can bring headphones to listen to your favorite music or podcast while you lounge in the dentist’s chair. Objects like stress balls or fidget spinners are also a great way to keep busy.
To keep your mind off your dentist’s appointment, you can practice mindfulness both before and during. Focus on breathing while you’re in the waiting room or in the dentist’s chair with slow deep breaths. Relax all the muscles you can, one at a time with a body scan. Start from your feet all the way up to your neck and shoulders while you’re reclined for your appointment.
If you need strength in numbers, ask if you can bring someone along to sit in on your appointment. If you have a trusted friend or family member who makes you feel safe, see if they can support you in facing your fear of the dentist.
While these tips may not get rid of dental anxiety completely, they are a great place to start so any patient can conquer any dentist appointment.
For more information on your oral health, visit Delta Dental of Washington’s blog.
Jeff Reynolds, DMD is a Delta Dental of Washington member dentist and serves as the Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care.