Getting anxious at the dentist’s office is so common that it’s practically a joke. However, extreme anxiety at the dentist can be seriously detrimental to your health and wellness, both inside your mouth and out.
If you struggle with “dentist anxiety,” there are coping mechanisms that can help you get your teeth taken care of without causing you extra stress.
You don’t want to let anxiety run your life, especially at the expense of your health. Keep reading, and we’ll give you an easy guide to dealing with anxiety at the dentist.
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Dental Anxiety Is Common
As many as 1.8 billion people in the world report struggling with dental anxiety. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone.
Do you start to feel anxious as soon as you arrive at the dentist’s office? Do you find yourself putting off scheduling dentist appointments until you have a serious problem that needs treatment?
If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, you are probably dealing with dental anxiety.
Dental anxiety becomes a problem when it keeps you from getting the essential dental care that you need to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Feeling a little nervous before an appointment is normal, but feeling so nervous that you avoid appointments is a problem.
Why Treat Dental Anxiety?
You might be wondering: why is it so important to go to the dentist regularly? Can’t I just go when I notice that something is wrong?
It might surprise you, but your teeth actually do need attention from a dentist even when everything seems fine. Your teeth and gums need to be regularly cleaned and examined by a dentist to prevent plaque buildup.
Plus, a dentist may be able to spot dental problems before you can. The sooner a problem is discovered, the easier (and less expensive) it will be to deal with it.
In a broader sense, learning to handle dental anxiety can represent a positive change in your life. Once you conquer this piece of anxiety, you will feel more prepared to handle other sources of anxiety that bother you!
Fear of the dentist is a type of anxiety, but for some people, it actually qualifies as a phobia. Treatment for dentophobia is easier to access than you might think.
The best dentist will be properly trained in helping patients with dentophobia feel secure. You can always look for local reviews and ask for recommendations on dentophobia message boards.
Establishing a long-term relationship with a dentist that you trust will help you implement any of these dental anxiety coping strategies.
Breathing Techniques for Anxiety
One of the best ways to combat anxiety is by using breathing strategies. Focusing on your breathing is a tried and true meditation technique that has been used to quiet the mind for centuries.
Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in for 5 seconds, and then breathe out for 10.
You can adjust this pattern to whatever length of time is comfortable for you. The most important thing is extending your exhale, which helps to slow your heart rate and calm your nerves.
Communication With Your Dentist
If you’re anxious about seeing the dentist, make sure to let them know! Your dentist will be extra careful with you if they know you are feeling uncomfortable.
Staying in constant communication with your dentist is a great way to ease your anxiety. You can ask them to explain everything that they are doing, step by step. That way, you won’t have to deal with any surprises.
Some people even find that they enjoy being their dentist’s “assistant”; handing the dentist tools that they need and things of that nature.
Some of your dental anxiety may be caused by the fact that you feel helpless or not in control. Take some ownership of your dental care by asking your dentist to let you in on the process.
Bringing Along a Support Person
Going to the dentist is always more nerve-wracking when you’re alone. If you have a partner, friend, or family member who is willing to help you battle your dental anxiety, ask them to come with you to your appointment.
Every dentist’s office has different rules about support people. Some may allow your support person to come into the appointment with you, while others may require them to stay in the waiting room.
Talk to your dentist and explain your situation to see how they can accommodate you and your support person.
Treating Extreme Anxiety at the Dentist
If your dental anxiety is so extreme that those coping strategies do not help you, there are still other measures you can take. You can always talk to your doctor about dentist anxiety medication.
Benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, and other anxiety medications may be prescribed on an as-needed basis to people who deal with extreme dental anxiety.
The best dentist for anxiety in patients will have a plan in place to help people with extreme anxiety. They may be able to take special measures to help you feel safe. Talk to your dentist and primary care doctor if you feel that your dental anxiety is extreme or debilitating.
Overcome Your Dental Anxiety Today
Even extreme anxiety at the dentist can be treated. Try these calming techniques next time you have an appointment.
If you are unable to calm yourself using these techniques, you can always talk to your doctor about anxiety medication.
For more health and wellness tips, check out the rest of our blog!