Do you skip the dentist because of fear? A dental phobia? Do you hate the sounds of the drill or catastrophize everything that could go wrong?
Well, you’re not alone. Experts estimate that around 20% of people are scared of the dentist. That statistic includes adults and children. Those are many people who avoid or put off, dental visits.
If you or your child are part of this dental anxiety group, then it’s time to do something. You can’t ignore your dental health your whole life, and you don’t want to pass your phobias onto your child. For many people, visiting the dentist can be a source of great anxiety. The fear of pain, the sound of the drill, and the perceived lack of control can all create a sense of dread. However, with some simple strategies and techniques, it is possible to ease dental anxiety and make the experience more comfortable.
Here are some suggestions for easing your fears and getting through your appointment.
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Find the Root of Your Fear
To do this, make sure you’re in a safe place and you have an exit strategy (something that successfully calms you down). Sit down in a quiet place and think about the dentist. Your brain will likely want to distract you from avoiding a fear spiral, but don’t let it.
Remind yourself that you’re safe and explore that dental fear. What about going to the Dentist scares you? Is it the sounds? The bright lights? The procedures themselves? This will help you pick the best coping strategy.
If you’re reading this for a child, consider how your child acts at the doctor’s. What’s different? Once you have a few ideas, run your hypotheses by them in a casual and non-threatening way.
Addressing the Sounds: Bring Noise Canceling Headphones and Earbuds
If it’s the sound of the drills and other things that scare you, there are easy ways around that. They make large over-ear headphones for noise-canceling that you can buy at Home Depot. Put your earbuds in your ears, listen to your favorite music/podcast, and then put the noise-canceling ones over that. Tell your Dentist to mouth their instructions to you clearly, or mime them to you. Creating a comfortable and welcoming environment can help put patients at ease. This can include simple things like comfortable seating, soothing music, and calming lighting. Additionally, some dental offices offer amenities such as blankets and pillows to help patients feel more relaxed.
Don’t turn your headphones up too high, or you may risk hearing damage.
If you’re reading for your child, surprise them with a new pair of over-ear headphones with their favorite character on them and give them to them right before the appointment. Some children’s dentists have TVs kids can watch to distract them, which is one of the factors to consider when picking a dentist.
General Fear: Try Hypnotherapy
If you can’t figure out your or your child’s specific dental anxiety triggers, that’s ok. There are general dental treatment or dental anxiety hypnotherapy tracks you can buy or find on YouTube.
Listening to them may help, and it can’t hurt!
Communication is essential when it comes to easing dental anxiety. Dentists should take the time to explain procedures and treatments thoroughly, using simple language and visual aids where possible. Patients should feel comfortable asking questions and expressing any concerns they may have.
Using Sedation Techniques
For patients who struggle with severe dental anxiety, sedation techniques can be an effective way to alleviate fear and discomfort. Options may include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral or IV sedation. These methods can help patients feel more relaxed and comfortable during their dental procedures.
Easing Dental Anxiety
Your anxiety is valid, even if you know that the things you’re afraid of rarely happen. Anxiety is a response from your brain and doesn’t listen to reason. There’s nothing wrong with you for having it, and you’re not alone.
You can talk to your dentist about your dental anxiety – they have more experience with it than you think. They may have suggestions or services that you don’t know about it, like sedated dentistry.
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