How to Deal with Dental Anxiety

Nobody likes going to the dentist; as necessary as it is, the experience is rarely pleasant. Who wants to sit in the dental chair while a person pokes around in your mouth, potentially even removing teeth or performing a root canal? It's never going to be high on a person's list of favorite activities. 

Still, going to the dentist is important – check-ups are necessary for keeping up with your overall dental hygiene, while dental treatments help target specific dental problems. For example, a root canal can help prevent an infection and save the tooth if you have a cracked tooth. If left, you could end up with much worse problems, and you'd wish you'd dealt with the dental anxiety much earlier. 

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is when a person feels intense fear and stress when going to the dentist. It's more than simply feeling a little apprehensive. It can lead to excessive sweating, a racing heartbeat, crying, and even panic attacks. Sometimes, dental fear is intense to the point that someone may never go to the dentist at all (in turn, leading to poor oral hygiene and dental problems). In terms of what the fear is about, that can vary. Some people with dental anxiety might be scared of the pain of treatment, whereas others might feel fear at the thought of the bright dental light. 

The good news is that your next dental visit doesn't have to be overwhelming, as there are solutions to dental anxiety. While it might never go away completely, you can adopt certain habits and coping methods to make a dentist trip easier. Sure – it will never be enjoyable, but it doesn't have to feel like stepping into 

Coping with Dental Anxiety: 7 Effective Methods

Your oral hygiene doesn't have to take the back burner. You might feel overwhelmed with dental fear right now, but these effective methods can make getting into the dental chair seem like nothing more than a chore (rather than something that will instill intense panic). 

Breathing Exercises 

Deep breathing exercises can reduce your heart rate and relax your mind and body, making this a good habit for when you're in your dentist's waiting room. There are different types of breathing exercises that can help. One – called the 4-7-8 method - involves four seconds of inhaling, holding your breath for seven seconds, and then releasing your breath for eight seconds. Do this as many times as you need to release tension

  • Don't Go Alone

  • If you fear the dentist, you might feel better having a friend or family member with you. Their presence may help you feel more relaxed, especially if it's someone you know well and trust. The next time you schedule an appointment, ask someone to accompany you and see if it makes a difference. 

  • Wear Headphones 

  • Distractions are very good for lessening anxiety, which is why wearing headphones can be a great help. You could listen to your favorite album, play an audiobook, or listen to the latest podcast episode you like. Of course, you'll need to ask your dentist if wearing headphones is okay for all dental procedures. Most dental offices are accommodating in this way – remember, they likely deal with many patients with a similar fear! 

  • Talk to Your Dentist 

  • Your dentist will understand your fears, so talk to them before the check-up or treatment. Tell them about your anxiety, and they will be able to accommodate you in any way they can. For example, you could come up with a gesture that communicates you want the dentist to stop for a moment, such as raising your hand

  • Ask for Happy Gas or General Anesthesia 

  • Most dental treatments can be completed with a simple local anesthetic. However, for those with dental anxiety, this won't necessarily be enough. If you're scared, don't be afraid to ask your dentist if you can have either happy gas (also known as nitrous oxide) or general anesthesia during your dental appointments. Happy gas allows you to stay away during the procedure but provides feelings of deep relaxation. General anesthetic, on the other hand, puts you to sleep, so you won't even remember the dental treatment at all. 

  • Try Hypnotherapy 

  • Hypnotherapy might have its skeptics, but many people with anxiety and phobias have found relief through it – including those with dental anxiety. Hypnotherapy involves a hypnotherapist guiding your mind through mental imagery and words. The result is a relaxed state in which your perception is slightly altered, which can help you view the dentist with less fear. 

  • Consider Anti-Anxiety Medications

  • If visiting the dentist is too overwhelming, consider using anti-anxiety medications before your appointment. Your doctor can prescribe medications such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan to relieve your anxiety and lessen your fear. Don't worry – you likely won't need to take any medications ongoing, only for your dentist appointments. 

  • Use a Regular Dentist

  • For optimal oral hygiene, you need to visit the dentist regularly. Going to a new dentist each time will only make the fear worse, as there will be an element of the unexpected. That's why having a regular dentist you always see is so important. Over time, they will come to know you and understand your particular fears; in turn, they'll be able to accommodate them. 

    Finding a good dentist is also important for dealing with anxiety, as you want a dentist who understands and creates a more relaxing environment. The team here at BAFdentistry is extremely understanding and sympathetic to patients with anxiety and can accommodate any level of fear. If you're apprehensive in any way, we are an excellent dentist to choose. 

    In Summary 

    Having a dental phobia is common, but that doesn't mean you need to accept it and never go to the dentist. You don't want to end up with poor oral health! Using any of the ten coping methods can make a trip to your dentist much easier, allowing you to get on top of your dental hygiene while facing your fear. Overcoming this intense anxiety is more than worth it when it comes to something as important as your teeth.