Dental anxiety is a powerful reason that many go to the dentist far less often than they should. But fear of dental work shouldn’t keep you from seeking the care you need. Reducing dental anxiety is an undertaking that requires everyone on board — starting with yourself and ending with the staff at your dental office.
Many dental offices are adopting principles of pain-free dentistry, which extends to anxiety-reducing measures to make the experience more tolerable, if not wholly pleasant, for those who suffer serious fears. There are some steps you can take to help reduce your dental anxiety and cope with it as you seek regular care and treatment to keep your smile looking and feeling its best.
1. Ask for Help
Nobody likes asking for help, but suffering in silence, alone, is worse. Let your dentist’s office know ahead of time that you’re dealing with dental anxiety. When staff know that your appointment is likely to be stressful, they can take extra measures to make it a less anxiety-provoking experience for you.
Talking with a therapist or other mental health care professional can also help, especially if your anxiety is preventing you from getting the care you need. You may need to talk through your fears in therapy and learn self-soothing or calming measures you can use on the day of your appointment. If you have an extreme phobia that results in physical symptoms such as panic attacks, your doctor may recommend medication to help lessen your fear.
2. Practice Your Appointment
If your worries about visiting the dentist are rooted in the fear that you’ll misspeak or embarrass yourself, practice what you’ll say and do before going. Write down a list of questions or concerns you have to bring up and bring it with you the day of your appointment. Anticipate possible questions from the dentist and staff and practice your answers. You can do this alone or with a trusted friend or family member to help ease social anxiety over your dental care.
Ditch the cliche stereotype of meditation as being only for Buddhist monks chanting in temples. Meditation can help you calm yourself and prepare for a dental appointment. Mindfulness is the art of focusing on what’s going on in the moment and not allowing nagging fears of what could happen overtake your thoughts. Practice mindfulness regularly for the most benefit and to build up your skills prior to an extremely stressful event.
At its simplest, mindfulness meditation can consist of focusing on your breathing. If you notice yourself continuing to worry, acknowledge the thought and choose to move on from it without judgment or negative self-talk — it takes practice!
4. Consider Alternative and Complementary Therapies
There’s a wide world of coping tools available to those with anxiety and phobias — and not all of them are backed in hard, tried-and-true scientific studies. While alternative and complementary therapies are not a substitute for conventional medical care, they can sometimes help or augment that care. Talk to your doctor prior to using any alternative or complementary therapy, and let your dentist know, too.
For example, the use of lavender for aromatherapy is touted as stress relieving. Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, there’s no harm in tucking a handkerchief with lavender oil in your pocket so you can catch a whiff at will.
5. Bribe Yourself
Sometimes you have to make tough choices in life. Often this means weighing the benefit versus the harm. While anxiety and phobias are very real, uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating to deal with, the physical, social, and financial costs of avoiding routine dental care are far worse, especially considering your dental health can have implications for your overall health.
If you need extra incentive to get yourself into the dentist’s chair, consider bribing yourself — or rather, rewarding yourself and celebrating a job well done after you go. Whether it’s splurging on a new outfit or giving yourself permission to lounge and binge-watch your new favorite show, a set reward gives you something to strive toward and look forward to after your appointment.
How We Can Help
We get how stressful life can be, and the last thing we want to do is add worry to your life. The staff of the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur is committed to making appointments positive for everyone who walks through our doors.
If you’re concerned, worried or absolutely petrified of the dentist, let us help you work through it and create positive associations with dental care by providing pain-free, top-notch care from professionals you can trust.
The first step is to book your appointment. Give our office a call at (201) 560-0606. If you can’t work yourself up to chat on the phone, you can also book your spot via email by clicking here. While we can’t promise you’ll learn to love going to the dentist, we can promise to make it as stress-free as possible.