Dentists are used to being unpopular—it’s just a fact of their job. After all, almost no one enjoys being in the dentist’s chair, having their teeth and gums poked and prodded. But we all know that good oral hygiene is essential for living a long and healthy life. Most people feel that dental appointments a couple of times a year are worth it for clean, healthy teeth. With that said, some people experience fear that goes far beyond what’s common or even develop dental phobias that can be difficult to overcome for the sake of their teeth.
If you find yourself feeling fearful when your twice-yearly checkups or other dental appointments come around, try these tips for calming yourself down so you can get your teeth the care they need.
Communicate With Your Dentist—Develop a Plan
Before you ever sit in the dentist’s chair, it’s important to communicate your anxiety and fear with your dentist. Even if you’re feeling embarrassed about bringing it up, your dentist needs to know what makes you uncomfortable so they can help you feel at ease.
If you struggle with severe dental anxiety, you might want to set up a meeting just to talk with the dentist before you schedule any dental work, even simple cleaning. This can take some of the pressure off while you build trust with your dentist and their staff.
Make a plan with your dentist. Have some hand signals you can use if you need the dentist to pause and take a break. Work together so that you feel in control throughout the appointment and never feel like you can’t communicate when you feel scared or in pain. Developing trust is key.
Bring Someone With You
It can be very scary to go to the dentist on your own if you have dental anxiety. If it makes you feel more comfortable about going to your appointment, it can be a good idea to bring a friend or family member with you. Don’t bring someone who also struggles with dental anxiety, however—that’s a recipe for disaster.
Bring someone you trust and who will make you feel calmer about the whole experience. Not only will you have the moral support of a loved one, but you’ll also have someone to advocate for you, should you need it.
Sometimes, if you can stop thinking about what’s going on during your dental appointment, the experience can seem more manageable. If you get anxious in the dentist’s chair, then you might want to bring a good pair of noise-canceling headphones and something to keep you entertained during the appointment. An audiobook or a new music album are great options.
This technique won’t necessarily keep your mind off your appointment completely, but it should help you feel calmer and less focused on the anxiety and distress you are experiencing. Choose media that soothes you and keeps your interest; you won’t be distracted by something you find boring.
Consider Sedation Dentistry
If your dental anxiety is severe enough to keep you from visiting the dentist at all, then you might want to consider sedation dentistry. Most dentists can only offer an oral sedative, but some specialized dental professionals are skilled in administering other more invasive (and effective) sedation options like laughing gas or IV sedation.
The sedation option that’s right for you will depend on several different factors. If you think you might be a good candidate for sedation, it’s important to talk over the choice with your dentist. Your safety is the top priority.
For some people, dental anxiety and fear can develop into a phobia for any number of reasons. Phobias are serious and often prevent people from seeking the important care they need. If you can’t bring yourself to go to the dentist at all, then you may be dealing with a phobia.
Since dental work isn’t something you can avoid for the rest of your life, you should consider seeing a mental health professional if you’re struggling with phobias relating to dental care, or if you think you might have a phobia.
People who have dental anxiety need an understanding, gentle, and compassionate dentist. It’s best to get a recommendation from someone you know or to choose a dentist with a stellar reputation in your area, like Dr. Marc E. Lazare, DDS of New York City. Known as “Dentist to the Stars,” Dr. Lazare offers advanced dentistry techniques and specializes in biomimetic and cosmetic dentistry.
Dr. Lazare will help to put you at ease and work with you to develop a treatment plan that works for your specific needs. Below is his contact information: