If you are afraid of the dentist, you are definitely not alone. Many people experience a bit of nervousness before a dental appointment. In fact, some studies have shown that up to 75% of all patients endure feelings of apprehension.
But if your anxiety is overwhelming, don’t let that fear keep you from getting the proper oral care you need. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about how you are feeling and try practicing some of these techniques to reduce your uneasiness.
- Focus on breathing regularly and slowly. This can reduce stress, lower your pulse rate, lower blood pressure and reduce your anxiety. Just breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth for a few minutes and see how you feel.
- Concentrate on relaxing your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation can also slow the heart rate, control stress and reduce anxiety. It is accomplished by alternately tensing and relaxing one muscle group at a time. Start with your feet and work your way up.
- Try Desensitization. This technique works by gradually increasing your familiarity with what and how your dentist provides treatment. Think of it as a “Tell-Show-Do” exercise that can help foster a feeling of control about what is happening during a procedure.
- Use Distraction. Distraction can be a powerful tool to deal with dental anxiety. Listening to music or focusing your mind on something else can help you feel more relaxed and more at ease in the dentist chair. Many dentists distract their patients with conversation which provides the additional benefit of allowing dentist and patient to get to know each other better.
- Nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas” is a colorless, odorless gas that when inhaled produces a sense of well-being. Combined with oxygen, it is a safe and effective way of managing more acute dental fears. It provides a sense of relaxation within minutes and is very helpful for many patients.
If you suffer from dental anxiety, have a conversation with your dentist or dental hygienist. Don’t avoid getting the oral care you need to maintain healthy teeth and gums.