Going to the dentist isn’t what most people call ‘fun.’ But we grin and bear our annual dental visits because we know oral health is essential to our overall health.
But if the thought of going to the dentist has your teeth chattering, you aren’t alone! Many people put off dental visits due to intense fear and anxiety about the experience. According to a Dental Fears Research Clinic study, nearly 60% of people fear going to the dentist. About 20% of Americans only go to the dentist when absolutely necessary – and almost 8% avoid going altogether.
Does this sound like you? If so, we can help!
5 Tips to Help Ease Your Fears and Overcome Dental Anxiety
1. Communicate your fears to your dentist and dental team.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell your dentist and dental team your fears. The best dentists want you to share your concerns and fears before your first visit so they can be prepared to support you. When you call to schedule your appointment, tell us about anything that makes you anxious or uncomfortable. We’ll note it in your file to ensure your dental team is aware. Knowing about fears beforehand allows us to schedule extra time and take things slowly. Then, remind our team that you’re nervous about your visit. We’re here to listen and understand what makes you anxious so we can offer solutions to make you feel more comfortable.
2. Schedule appointments first thing in the morning.
There are a couple of reasons to make appointments early in the day. First, you’ll avoid worrying about your visit all day. And your nerves won’t already be frazzled from a stressful day, making it easier to breathe and relax. Second, you won’t risk other appointments going longer than expected. Less time in the waiting room means less time to worry and feel anxious.
3. Ask for what you need.
Some patients feel anxious because they can’t move or talk once the dental procedure starts. Most dentists are skilled at reading facial expressions and head nods. But caring dentists want to ensure the best communication possible. Before any treatment begins, establish a signal with your dental team, like raising your left hand or making a thumbs-down sign. If you feel uncomfortable or anxious at any point, just make the signal – and we’ll pause so you can take a break.
4. Bring distractions.
Wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones and listen to your favorite music, audiobook, or podcast. You can also bring a blanket to keep you warm and make you feel more comfortable – anything that will distract your mind and help you relax.
5. Try techniques for relaxation.
Before your dental appointment, sit in a comfortable space for a few minutes. Breathe in slowly for four counts, then slowly breathe out for four counts. Repeating this five times will slow your heart rate and help you relax. If you feel your stress level rising during your procedure, try doing this breathing exercise again (make sure to breathe through your nose and not your mouth). If you need more help, use your signal, and let our team know you need a break.
Oral health is too important to let your fear and anxiety get in the way!
When you trust your dentist, your dental fears will decrease. So, establishing a dental home is one of the best ways to overcome dental anxiety. The more you get to know and trust your dental team (including the front office members), the more comfortable you’ll be.
At Atkins & Anderson Dentistry, we promise a judgment-free zone. So, whether it’s been 10 months or 10 years since your last dental visit, don’t let dental anxiety keep you from reaching out. Your comfort is the highest priority of our dental care team, and we want to help you reclaim your oral health! Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.