How to Overcome Dental Fear and Anxiety

Let’s be honest: nobody truly enjoys a trip to the dentist; and if you do, I want to seriously question your definition of the word “enjoy.” At best, it’s an every-six-months chore akin to the deep cleaning you do every spring and fall. At worst, your bi-annual cleaning is a source of anxiety so intense that it requires actual medication to relieve. And you are not alone; according to WebMD, up to 20% of Americans fear going to the dentist to the point that they regularly avoid their cleanings.

This is no way to live. Even if your appointments with Birmingham dentists are not precisely fun, your dental appointments should never create such fear and dread.  Here are some tips and tricks to relieve the anxiety of your bi-annual cleanings, and make sure that, even if you aren’t having fun at the office, at least you can feel relaxed and well taken care of.

Develop a Relationship with Your Dentist

Let me assure you, dentists in Birmingham AL are real people. And, like all real people, it is possible to have a conversation with them. If you do take that step to communicate with this real-person-dentist, they will likely be able to relieve a lot of your concern. I would recommend going in to the dentist’s office before your appointment and meeting with your doctor one-on-one. Ask questions about the equipment he uses, about his education and his experience, about his family. Be honest about any bad experiences you’ve had, and allow your dentist to address those experiences – what went wrong, and how he will be sure to prevent such experiences in the future.

Understand Your Dentist’s Process

If someone is putting metal tools in your mouth, and you have no idea what said metal tools are for – well, that’s understandably concerning. But if your dentist is explaining the tools he or she is using any why, then you will begin to understand that these items are not torture devices, but rather mirrors, probes and picks. Just as dentists become much less frightening when you treat them like real people, dental instruments are not so scary when you know what they do and how they work.

Avoid Scheduling Your Appointment During a Time When You are Likely to be Stressed

If you typically have a quiet, relaxing morning after the kids are at school, but your afternoons are a mad dash from one soccer practice to the other – it’s probably not a good idea to schedule your dental appointment between practices. Choose a time when you are calm and happy, and you will significantly decrease your anxiety.

Focus on Relaxation Techniques

There are plenty of uncomfortable side effects to a phobia or anxiety. Hyperventilation is a common side effect of anxiety. Focusing on deep, even breaths can increase oxygen levels to your blood and brain. This allows you to think more clearly and calm yourself down. Try counting to twenty on an inhale, then count to ten on the exhale.

Meditation techniques can also help to ease anxiety. Take ten minutes at the start of your day and focus on emptying your mind of any racing thoughts. Focus on letting go of any tension in your body, starting with your head and working your way to your toes.

Bring Headphones to the Appointment

It’s a good idea to bring your own mp3 player or iPod loaded with a playlist that you find enjoyable or calming. Music can soothe even the most frayed nerves. If you don’t have a set of headphones, call your dentist before your appointment to see if he has a pair available. There are plenty of dentists offices that supply their patients with listening devices to use during their appointments.

Talk About Your Fears with Others

Explaining your fear of the dentist with friends and family can actually help in relieving those fears. Most likely, you will hear stories of similar fears that were relieved by a good experience. “That mean, sadistic hygienist who enjoys poking your gums until they bleed? Yeah, she was a nightmare – but don’t worry, last time I went to that office, I learned that she joined the Peace Corps.”

“Root canal? Oh yeah, I was scared before my root canal too. But don’t worry, they have some amazing medication nowadays. You won’t feel a thing.”

Talking about your anxiety is like therapy; you learn to deal with it once you’ve shared it with others.