Dental care is an important part of your overall health. What happens with your teeth and gums can have a large effect on other aspects of your well-being. However, going to the dentist can be an anxiety-inducing experience for many. Symptoms might include racing thoughts, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, lightheadedness, shakiness, or even panic attacks. It’s also common to try or lash out in anger.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to help get control of your anxiety and reduce your symptoms. Keep reading for five tips on how you can help manage your dental anxiety.
1. Communicate Your Feelings With Your Dentist
If you’re fearful of the dentist, share your thoughts with them. Whether it’s the dental hygienist, your dentist, or another specialist, they should be open to hearing your concerns. An open conversation can make you feel more at ease and lead to solutions. They might be more gentle with you, stop to give you breaks, or use alternative methods that make you more comfortable. It’s also important to ask whatever questions you may have. Don’t sit and fear the worse. Find the answers you need to put your mind at ease.
2. Distract Yourself
Distractions can do wonders for reducing anxiety. Many dentist offices have televisions so you can listen to a show while getting your teeth cleaned or getting other dental work done. Alternatively, you might be able to bring your own headphones to listen to music or an audiobook. Figure out how long the appointment is going to be and plan accordingly. For example, fillings or root canals can take 1-2 hours, so you might want to download a book ahead of time or get a playlist set up before you go. Call ahead and talk timing with a receptionist.
3. Try Meditation and Deep Breathing
Meditation and breathing exercises are great tools for calming your heart rate, slowing your thoughts, and relaxing your body. Practice beforehand so when you’re in the dentist chair, you can fall into a comfortable breathing pattern or meditation exercise. If you’re able to bring headphones, you can also download a guided meditation to start playing during your appointment.
4. Discuss Medication, Anesthesia, and Other Options
Advancements in medicine have resulted in many pain-relieving tools for dental work. Depending on what you’re having done, your dentist may be able to present you with some options. It could be as simple as some numbing cream or as complex as anesthesia. Be conscious of cost and insurance coverage, though, to ensure there aren’t any financial surprises. You might also consider anxiety medications, but only if you’ve had a discussion with your primary care provider and they agree it’s an appropriate solution.
Plan ahead for your appointment so you’re prepared. Make sure you show up on time, but not so soon that you have time to dwell on your anxiety. Consider bringing a friend or family member and ask them ahead of time so you know you’ll have companionship. Maybe it’s best to take the day off from work and spend the rest of your time relaxing, watching tv, going for a walk, or finding other ways to wind down after the appointment. Before you leave, make sure you have your next appointment scheduled. This will make it easier to stay on track with your cleanings and harder for you to put off your next visit. The dentist doesn’t have to be an experience that you dread each time. With the right mindset, strategies, and conversations, you can set yourself up for success. And when your teeth and gums are taken care of, you’re one step closer to improving your overall health.