Many people are aware of the importance of dental health. But even with this in mind, some grown-ups still get stressed over the dreaded dentist visit. If you are one of them and your anxiety gets in the way of your health, this article can help.
Dental anxiety and phobia in adults
You are not the only adult who fears dental appointments. According to a 2015 study, almost 52% of adult patients in India are moderately to extremely anxious about visiting the dentist, and 3% have dental phobia. In the U.S., 9% to 20% avoid visiting the dentist due to anxiety and fear.
Dental anxiety and dental phobia do not mean the same thing. People with dental anxiety feel uneasy as their appointment draws near, and have exaggerated or unfounded fears and worries. Dental phobia, on the other hand, is more serious and intense.
People with a dental phobia do everything they could to avoid seeing a dentist, let alone making an appointment. They are somewhat aware that their fear is irrational but cannot do much about it, and only go to the dentist voluntarily when driven by extreme pain.
While psychiatric consultation may be needed to overcome dental phobia, there are strategies to help you alleviate dental anxiety.
Voice out your feelings
Voicing them out will get your worries off your chest when you are feeling tense or anxious, and letting your dentist know about it will help them treat you according to your needs.
When booking an appointment, tell the receptionist that you get nervous about visiting the dentist. Once you arrive, remind the dentist and the staff about your anxiety. Do not hesitate from sharing bad experiences, and asking for further suggestions on how to cope. Sometimes, you are anxious about something because it is unfamiliar, so asking questions about what you can expect from the procedure may help.
Let your dentist know if you get overwhelmed and need a break during an exam. If you experience pain despite having local anesthetic, tell your dentist so they can make the procedure more comfortable
Ask your dentist if you can bring something to take your mind off the procedure. If the sound of the dental drill bothers you, bring headphones to drown it out. You can also squeeze a stress ball or play with a fidget spinner.
Some clinics even offer a “zen” experience to help patients with dental anxiety. According to naturalsmilesky.com, this treatment makes you as comfortable as can be, soothe you with distractions, and even incorporate aromatherapy to calm you down.
Use mindfulness techniques
Relaxation begins with putting your mind at ease. As you get ready for the procedure, do deep breathing exercises to relax muscle tension while envisioning yourself in a relaxing situation.
While waiting for your appointment or during breaks on the dental chair, count as you inhale deeply and then exhale with the same count. Scan your body and focus on relaxing one body part at a time. Work your way from your head, down to your toes. You can focus on your forehead first, then the cheeks, neck, and onto the rest of your body.
These techniques can help you relax during a dental appointment. If you still get anxious about your subsequent visits, keep practicing these strategies until the anxiety is minimized. If you keep experiencing high levels of dental anxiety despite easing yourself each time, consider consulting a therapist.