Dental Anxiety – 10 Tips to Help You Calm Your Fears
Have you ever cried in a dentist chair before? I know I have!! (like recently, not just when I was a kid) I absolutely dread going to the Dentist! I have put it off so many times to the point I thought I would never have a beautiful smile or be ‘cavity free.’ I think it is safe to say, I am one of those people who suffer from ‘Dental Anxiety’ and I know I am not alone. If you can relate….just keep reading, I’ve got some great tips to for you.
Over the years I’ve learned some techniques to help me overcome some of my dental fears. I am not a professional psychologist but I would consider myself an expert Dental Anxiety Patient! (You can read more of my personal story below.) These tips and ideas are my own and are things that have helped me. I can’t guarantee the success they will have for you but I hope they can help you face your fears head on or at least help you cope with your anxiety in order to get that beautiful smile you deserve.
I’m not here to tell you it will be easy, or that you will completely overcome your fears and anxiety (or that you’ll be able to afford it $$); but I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I’ve realized there are people with perfect teeth and people who’ve never had a cavity in their life, but there are also many people just like you and me; who get cavities just by looking at a cookie! This is just a little bit of what I’ve learned and how I manage to get through a dentist appointment without bawling my eyes out.
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Dental Anxiety – 10 Tips to help you calm your fears:
- Find a good dentist. This is the most important tip in my opinion! If you have a terrible dentist who doesn’t work with you to get your teeth healthy and strong than you are just throwing your money away and you will end up going back to the dentist more and more to fix the continuous problems you’re having. The best way to find a good dentist is to ask your friends, check reviews online, look at their facebook page and read comments from their customers. Call and ask questions, meet the dentist beforehand and make sure they are kind and creditable! Don’t skip this step. I’ve had enough bad dental experiences to know that a lot of the work I’ve gotten done recently could have been avoided if all my root canals and crowns had been done properly the first time.
- Explain your fears and anxiety. Your dentist and their staff should be good listeners. Figure out what is the most difficult part of going to the dentist for you and talk to your dentist about it. I always try to express my fears and anxieties with everyone that is going to be working on my teeth so that they are extra sensitive to my needs. I seriously cried after getting a cleaning when the hygienist told me how many cavities I had, talk about embarrassing. By the way, my least favorite part is the shots, so they always talk me through it, leave the numbing gel on my gums for at least 5-10 minutes before giving the shots and do it very slowly, I also get nitrous just during this part to stay relaxed.
- Have your spouse set up appointments or schedule for the beginning of the month. You can keep your fears at bay by having your spouse schedule your appointments (and tell you the day before) or schedule them for the beginning of the month. This way you am not staring at the calendar all month long, worrying and waiting and making yourself overly anxious for weeks on end! Just flip the calendar go to your appointment and get it over with before you have time to build up your anxiety. Oh and morning appointments are best, then you’re not dreading it all day long
- Listen to music/podcast. When the work is getting done bring an Ipod and listen to your favorite soothing music, conference talk, or podcast. The appointment tends to go by a lot quicker when you’re focused on something else and it will help you keep your mind off what’s going on.
- Meditate/Relax. Breathe in, Breathe out… Yes it actually can make a difference. Try to calm your nerves before your appointment by putting on some relaxing music, doing some relaxation exercises or calming yoga poses. Relax your mind and body to help prepare for a very tense visit to the dentist. Doing some mental and breathing exercises while in the dentist chair can also help.
- Have a plan and focus on the end goal. Work with your dentist to create a plan for all the work you need to get done. If you’re anything like me it will be a lot of work, multiple appointments, and may take several years to get it all done because of insurance limits. Figure out how much your insurance will cover for the year then plan out with your dentist what you want to get done that year. Usually you’ll start with the worst teeth first and work your way to the less pressing issues later. Which leads me to my next tip…
- Get as much done in one apt as possible. Every appointment you should get as much work done as you can. If you’ve got numerous cavities or teeth to fill (or crowns) in one area (like the upper left or lower right etc) get it all done at one appointment. Yes your appointment may be long but its better than going back another day and doing it all over again, at least that’s what I prefer.
- Get nitrous during your least favorite parts. You may not like this stuff but for me it really helps relieve the tension when getting shots in my mouth. I get a little nitrous in the beginning to help calm my nerves, it’s on the lowest setting for me and then once the shots are done I take the nose thing off. I get nauseous if I have it on too long. Plus my dentist gives it out for free, cha-ching!
- Have soft foods at home for afterwards and/or reward yourself. (like go shopping and buy yourself something nice – or parooz Hobby Lobby before heading home). So when our children go to the dentist we usually take them to the dollar store afterwards and let them pick out a little present for doing so well. So sometimes I do the same thing for myself. I’ll reward myself afterwards or plan on doing something fun after so I have something to look forward to. (of course this isn’t always possible because some dental work will leave you ready for a nap or you may need to get home to feed your baby). Also make sure you have some soft yummy food waiting for you at home or pick up a milkshake on your way home. Applesauce anyone?
- Say a little prayer. If you’re a spiritual person, saying a little prayer (or a lot of prayers) before your big day can really make a difference. I find a lot of comfort in prayer and I know I can’t overcome my fears on my own. So when the fear and anxiety feel overwhelming ask for a little help, pray for peace and comfort during (before and after) your appointments.
I grew up eating sugar cereals, drinking soda and eating candy as a kid, not all the time but fairly regularly. My siblings and I loved to go down to the corner mart and buy candy with our saved up cash. Always trying to get the Indian with the star guy on our tootsie pop wrapper so we could get an extra free sucker! I miss those carefree days. But sadly those carefree days also included going to the dentist…a lot.
On top of poor eating habits my family also has a history of bad teeth. So it seems inevidable that I would have cavities all growing up. I don’t remember a single time going to the dentist and getting my picture on the wall for being ‘cavity free.’ With so many dentist visits in my life and painful shots, fillings and extractions it’s no wonder I developed a huge amount of fear and anxiety about getting dental work done. I also had crooked teeth growing up, so along with anxiety came self-esteem issues or a lack of smiling I should say.
I’m in my 30’s now and I still dread going to the dentist. I can’t count the number of dentist’s I’ve been to in my life, more than a dozen I’m sure. And dentist appointments…I don’t think I could ever figure out how many of those I’ve been to! Needless to say, I hate going to the dentist. I will put it off until my teeth literally break or start to hurt before I’ll finally schedule an appointment.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the work I’ve had done just in my adult life….
4 wisdom teeth pulled, countless cavities filled, multiple root canals, 2 redone root canals, 9 veneers, 9 crowns (so far), infections, lots of broken and chipped teeth, just to name a few. Here is a picture of me several years ago when I got a lot of dental work done at one time. The before picture is pretty embarrassing but I wanted to give you a good idea of how bad my teeth use to be!
Yeah, I’ve had my share of dental work done!! I’ve learned that you don’t need to let bad experiences or bad habits keep you from having a healthy and happy smile. I’ve cut way back on my sugar intake, I brush and floss religiously (this is the toothbrush and water flosser I use), and I go to the dentist for regular check-ups. I’m finally to the point where I can relax and use the above techniques for when I do have to go to the dentist and it helps tremendously. I have one more crown to do next month but I know I will get through it and once that is done I will finally be able to just do yearly cleanings and check-ups. (at least until I get another cavity or broken tooth, which I’m sure I will). Until then I’ve stopped worrying and have begun to focus on the positive…my beautiful smile!
If you are like me, or have any tips for facing your dental fears please share, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or on our facebook page. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone in our quest for a beautiful healthy smile!
And go schedule that check-up you’ve been putting off for the last several months(or years) 🙂
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The tip “explain your fears and anxiety” would be helpful. It’s hard for me to open up about anxiety with a professional like a dentist, but it will be a better experience if they know what is going on with me. I’ll have to do that at my next appointment. It’s about time that we schedule another one anyway.
My dentist appointment is right around the corner, and I feel the fears coming into my mind about going. I’ll make sure that when I get there they give me a little nitrous to relieve some stress. I’ll also make sure that I get a lot done at once, so I won’t have to go back for a while.
Hi, I’m one of those also with bad past experiences but. I have high tolerance for the shots & every dentist I advise them of that, but they never listen so history ,pain repeats itsself as they go to drill & I jump out the chair twice (finally Dr says wow you weranda kidding) . Funny thing , a year I got implants, so had to have an iv ( did I mention I’m terrified of needles) I received valium & the dentist coundnt believe her eyes as she kept giving me whatever it was to make me comatose since U couldn’t be totally out even the attending Dr. (dental collage) was in disbelief that I was sober & coherent. After 3 syringes of the stuff I lost count everyone was laughing joking that even a horse would be snoring by now. I’m no skinny mini but I’m no heafty gal either ( 170). So the entire 2 yr process of dental work I have been receiving valium otherwise my bloodpressure gets so high they can’t work on me or I’ll start hyperventilating Then anxiety attack. So I do pray , but sometimes it just is over whelming.