Dental anxiety is a specific situation, but it’s also a lot more common than you might think. Plenty of people of all ages get nervous going to the dentist, and that’s perfectly normal. Having someone go inside of your mouth and get close to your personal space is a boundary many people don’t like to cross in their daily life, but that being said — going to the dentist is definitely still necessary, even if it isn’t the most fun situation you can think of.
If you tend to have anxiety when it comes to going to the dentist, there are things you can do to take care of it and manage it so you can have a positive experience caring for your teeth and oral health. Everyone needs to go to the dentist — ideally twice a year — which means that it would be the best option for you to find a way that you can go to the dentist regularly without so much nervous energy. When you can do that, you can relieve yourself of that stress overall. If you’re looking for ways to manage dental anxiety, there are so many techniques that can help you. Here are just a few of them.
1. Communicate With Your Dentist
Gritting your teeth and pretending that everything is fine might work in certain situations, but it might not work so well at the dentist, where you tend to have your mouth open and ready for inspection and cleaning. No matter your reason for anxiety, communicating with your dentist and hygienist to let them know you have anxiety can help you work on strategies together so you don’t feel so alone in the anxiety. Remember — you definitely aren’t their first nervous patient, and you likely won’t be the last.
2. Breathing Exercises
While you wait in the waiting room, and even in the dentist chair before things get started, practicing some deep breathing or counting your breaths can help calm down your senses and put you into a more relaxed state. While this might not seem like it’ll work, it can actually do wonders for all kinds of anxiety.
3. Distract Yourself
While this can sometimes be difficult, visualizing your happy place and taking your mind off of what’s happening around you can actually be very helpful when dealing with stressful situations like dental anxiety. Try and think about things that make you happy and focus on those.
4. Ask Sedation Dentistry
For those who are severely anxious, sedation dentistry can sometimes be a viable option. While not all dentist offices offer sedation dentistry for routine cleanings, there are plenty that do, and if you find that sedation is the only way you can get through a cleaning, there’s no harm in asking your dentist to explore those options with you. Most often, sedation dentistry is practiced by administering sedatives through IV — they don’t completely put you under, but they can relax you and allow the dentist to have better control and access.
5. Use Mindfulness
Similar to some of the other anxiety techniques, mindfulness is all about grounding yourself and staying rooted in reality. While most people think of mindfulness as a way to connect with their sensations and surroundings, it can just as easily be about repeating affirmations to yourself, reminding yourself that things will be okay, and doing other mental exercises to calm you.
6. Take the Day Off
While some people would rather take a long lunch break, come in late to work or leave early to go to a dentist appointment, you might need a little more than that. Of course, not everyone has the ability to completely take a full day off from work for every dentist appointment, but if you can swing it, it could be very helpful to have that space to chill out and focus on getting through the appointment rather than also juggling work on top of that.
7. Don’t Go Alone
While every dentist has different restrictions for their office — especially during COVID-19 — taking someone with you can be the ultimate act of moral support if you are allowed to have a companion. You can bring a parent, a partner, or even a friend along with you if you need someone by your side. Truly, moral support can make a huge difference, even if you don’t realize it.
Managing Dental Anxiety
Like all anxiety, dental anxiety can take many forms and come in all different levels. While you might be nervous to go to the dentist, it’s still important to take care of your oral health and get your teeth cleaned regularly. Luckily, there are so many ways you can manage dental anxiety and find a positive experience with your cleanings. Whether you use mindfulness or bring someone along with you, you’ll be able to find something that helps take the edge off. What techniques tend to help you when you’re nervous or anxious?