We all have fears in life, and fear of dental work is a common one. When I was younger, I was even deathly afraid of the dentist! Since then, I have learned that there are many things which can help a dental visit become a pleasant one. When building my new office last year, I even specifically incorporated some of them into the design. Most of these suggestions apply to any dentist’s office. Here are some things you can do to help you get to the dental office and through the appointment:
● Tell us you are anxious. If you let us know how you feel- as early as your first phone call, we can be sure to accommodate you and take the extra time that you may need. If we know what past issues you have had that may have contributed to your fear, we can be sure to address them- for instance, if it takes extra anesthetic to get you numb, we should know that. I like to let my patients know that they are in control- a simple raise of their hand is a stop signal for my staff and I.
● Distract yourself. You have a lot of options for distracting yourself to help take your mind off the treatment. ○ Listen to music or an audiobook- most dentists nowadays provide listening options, but otherwise bring your own- it really helps. ○ Watch TV- at our office we installed ceiling TV’s so patients could watch their favorite shows or even a virtual nature hike while having work done.
○ Take your attention AWAY from the procedure. You can either imagine a place which is relaxing to you (imagine yourself strolling along the beach, for instance), or even just wiggle your toes. Simply giving your brain something else to do is key.
● Breathe. Deep breathing is an easy way to relax yourself. Try breathing in deeply while counting slowly to 5. Hold your breath for a second then, sigh or exhale slowly, and repeat for 4 or 5 breaths. You can do this when you get to the office, or anytime- it helps to practice this regularly. It is a great way to introduce a calm state of mind at any time.
● Relax your mind by relaxing your body. It is difficult to just “relax” your mind when you are anxious. It is, on the other hand, quite easy to trick your mind into relaxing by relaxing the rest of your body. Once your body is relaxed, your mind automatically follows. Try this while laying back in the chair, or even try this at home laying in bed or on a recliner.
○ Start at your feet. Tense your toes for 5 seconds, then let go for 20.
○ Then do the same with your calves.
○ Now, repeat this process for your upper legs, your butt, your tummy, chest, back, upper arms, wrists and hands, neck, and face.
○ Each time you relax a set of muscles, try to let go completely, and do this while maintaining slow, relaxed breaths.
○ Talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition, to make sure that these exercises are okay for you.
I hope these suggestions are useful for you- I know that they work for me and the countless anxious patients that I see.