The trigger might be anything… an assistant wearing scrubs and a hygienic mask…the smell of sterile latex gloves…the sound of a spinning drill…
If the idea of visiting the dentist makes you break out in a sweat you are one of the many who suffer from dental anxiety. At Advanced Family Dental Care, we believe no one should have to feel afraid of visiting the dentist. In this post we explain the roots of dental anxiety and the vicious cycle it creates, as well as offer some ways to conquer it!
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
There are several reasons why people develop an aversion to the dentist. Possible causes of dental anxiety include:
- Memories of past traumatic experiences
- Fear of losing control or not having the ability to communicate during a procedure
- Embarrassment about the state of your teeth
- Fear of ridicule, pain, or cost of dental visits
- Phobias of needles, drilling, or gagging
Although dental anxiety is common, the consequences of neglecting your dental health are costly. Think of non-cosmetic dentistry as being broken into two categories: Preventative (easier!) and Repair (more difficult!). Preventive care includes regular cleanings, x-rays, and exams. Relatively simple, non-invasive and inexpensive treatment. Repair includes fillings, root canals and extractions. Relatively complex, more invasive, more expensive treatment.
Because your oral health is a good indicator of your overall health, routine check ups are a necessity of general preventative care. When you avoid dental checkups you face additional risks that negatively affect your health and comfort. You increase the chances of infection to your teeth and gums. Over time, you can also develop improper chewing habits and speech patterns. By skipping out on Preventative care, you ensure that you will need more dental Repair treatment later on, which might increase your anxiety in the future. We want to help you avoid this vicious cycle!
Be Prepared: How to Get Ready for Your Next Appointment
The next time you need a checkup, have a plan. Mentally preparing for a dental visit will lessen your anxiety and give you control over the situation. Consider the following tips to reduce dental anxiety:
Take Care of Your Teeth: Prevention begins with you! Most painful dental experiences can be avoided with daily dental hygiene. When you brush and floss twice a day, you won’t have to worry about scary dental visits. Did you know that brushing only protects about 2/3 of your tooth surfaces? The remaining 1/3 is in the tight spaces between your teeth. Remember to floss and dramatically decrease your likelihood of cavities!
Try to Relax: Physically, relax. Slow breathing techniques, like the ones used while doing yoga, can soothe your body into a relaxed state. Squeeze a stress ball to relieve tension. Or try alternately tensing and relaxing different muscles in your body to avoid discomfort and cramping.
Get Comfortable: Dress for comfort and confidence. You’ll feel good walking into the office and better walking out! If you tend to be fidgety when nervous, wear a necklace, bracelet or ring you can fiddle with without impeding the dentist as he works. We can provide shades to block the glare of examination lights but if many of your anxiety triggers are visual, consider bringing a sleep mask. Also, some people hate the feel of the dentist’s chair; if you bring a pillow to cushion your back or prop up your feet, you’ll feel more at ease.
Talk About Your Fears Before the Procedure: Dentists don’t want you to dread your appointments. The more comfortable you are, the better they can treat you. Ask questions to help you understand what exactly will be happening during your treatment. Ask about options to help ease your stress. We offer a variety of aids, including opportunities for sedation. Explore your options before treatment.
Communicate During Treatment: The work in progress might make speaking difficult but there are other ways to communicate. Like we said, the more comfortable you are, the better your treatment will go! We’ll make sure to check in with you as we proceed but if you want to communicate during the procedure, hold your head still and raise your hand, blink twice–any non-verbal signal will get our attention.
Make It a Tradition: After you go to the dentist, reward yourself! Go for a walk or catch a movie. Get a haircut or a pedicure so you feel fresh from head to toe. If your visit together with the whole family, create a tradition of going out for ice-cream or playing at the park after every check-up. Make a positive association with a visit to the dentist, and over time your anxiety will disappear.
Dental anxiety can be conquered when you have a plan for confronting it! We want to create a positive experience, helping you resolve the anxiety many associate with a visit to the dentist and look forward to your next visit! Talk to our team of dental professionals to see how we can help you minimize the impact of dental anxiety and improve your oral health.