For people who suffer with dental phobia or anxiety, a visit to the dentist is an anxiety inducing event. Even the thought of dental appointments can be frightening for individuals with dental phobia. Almost 35 million Americans suffer from dental phobia and dental anxiety so severe, that they avoid dental care altogether. This is troubling because, study after study has shown that our dental health is directly related to our overall health. The subsequent lack of dental care will put their bodies and their health at risk for complications. Many think sedation dentistry is the answer, but sleeping through dental treatment does not allow you to overcome dental phobia and dental anxiety in a healthy manageable way.
Best Methods To Cope With Dental Anxiety And Dental Phobia
Dental anxiety and dental phobia can be overcome!! You should not let dental phobia stop you from seeking regular dental care. With proper steps taken by patient and dentist, and some patience, those fears will minimize so that you can not only seek treatment, but feel comfortable in the dental chair. Some of the best methods for coping with dental anxiety and dental phobia include:
–Communication – This might very well be one of the biggest feats to overcome for many who are fearful of the dentist. Being afraid of ridicule or even being talked down to by the dentist can make it difficult to share your fears and concerns. Communication can be a very powerful tool in giving back a full sense of control over your dental care. This control helps to reduce a majority of the anxiety of helplessness that many feel. Being a part of the decision making on treatment, knowing what to expect, and knowing if you feel uncomfortable your dentist will stop, can make any dental patient feel better. Communication and control can be the differentiating factor between those suffering from dental phobia and dental anxiety, and those who have found a way to work through it.
–Distractions – Take control of your mind and allow yourself to be distracted from the dental treatment. The best ways to achieve distraction are:
1) meditation – a relaxation of mind and body musculature.
2) audio – listening to music, or the voice of your dentist while they talk you through the process with casual conversation.
3) visual – watching television or a movie, looking at a relaxing picture during treatment. For many, the headphones help to block out the dental noises that increase their anxiety, listening to a personal story about the dentist, visualizing a relaxing setting, and muscle relaxation can make the experience much more tolerable and possibly even pleasant!
-Muscle Relaxation Techniques – The key here is to place focus on your body parts, relaxing them one at a time. You can start with your toes or hands and work your way across your body, squeezing then relaxing each area of your body progressively. This removes your focus on the dental care and places it on your body achieving the goal of relaxing and calming yourself. Try squeezing a stress ball in 1 or both hands.
-Take A Mini Vacation In Your Mind! – To help ease your nerves and control pain during dental treatment, imagine yourself in a relaxing, enjoyable setting. For example, visualize calming colors or scenes such as the ocean, think about the sound of the waves as you relax on your favorite beach or, if you enjoy hiking, imagine yourself walking along a trail next to a river. The more detail you add to the image, the less focused you will be on the dental procedure. This technique takes practice initially, but once you gain confidence in yourself and your dentist it will get easier to do. If you find that your mind drifts away from your image, gently turn your attention back to the scene you created. Try practicing meditation with visualization at home before your appointment when you feel stressed about upcoming dental treatment.
-Breathing Exercises – This is a great technique for your drive over to the dental office, or while waiting for your appointment. Deep breathing can be a great technique to relax your mind and body prior to dental work. By taking in slow, deep breaths, the oxygen flow will have a calming effect on your entire body. Remember, slow and deep, NOT short and fast, as this can cause you to hyperventilate.
–Acupuncture/Acupressure – Often laughed off, acupuncture/acupressure have many benefits. These can include relief form pain and anxiety. For this to be effective, the acupuncture should be completed close to the dental appointment, while some acupressure can be done during the dental appointment. This will not work for all but it has been a successful technique for many in attempting to overcome dental phobia and dental anxiety.
The key to overcoming and coping with your fear is to remember that you are not alone in dealing with dental anxiety or dental phobia. If you choose the right dentist and team, they will be with you every step of the way, guiding you to overcome your fears. In the beginning it may seem insurmountable but one step and day at a time, and the visits become easier and easier. You might actually begin to wonder why you didn’t do this earlier. Do not let dental phobia prevent you from being healthy in all aspects of your life.