Dental phobia is a real thing – so, if going to the dentist makes you uncomfortable or queasy, know that you are certainly not alone. In fact, “as many as 40 million Americans avoid the dentist because of fear and anxiety,” according to Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.
Signs and symptoms of dental anxiety
People with dental anxiety may experience:
- racing heartbeat (tachycardia) or palpitations
- low blood pressure and possible fainting (syncope)
- visible distress, crying or signs of panic
- withdrawal, or using humour or aggression to mask anxiety
Some anxious patients will routinely miss dental appointments, and may find it difficult to undergo dental treatment regardless of whether it is simple or complex.
However, dental anxiety is possible to overcome. Here are some of our favorite tips for overcoming dental anxiety so you can keep your oral health in tip top shape.
Who can be affected by dental anxiety
Dental anxiety is common and can affect people of any age.
Children who have had bad dental experiences in most cases can overcome their fear if the situation is managed well and they are well cared for and supported during further dental visits. Adults who are anxious about dental care tend to remain anxious throughout life.
Many anxious dental patients can find a dentist who is sympathetic to their situation, so they are able to cope with going to the dentist.
7 Tips to Ease Your Dental Anxiety
Find the right dentist
The right dentist can make all the difference. You’ll feel more comfortable and confident about the care you’re receiving. Look for a dentist who offers…
- A friendly, caring staff
- Great reviews from current patients
- Simple answers to all your questions
- A relaxing and comfortable office atmosphere
- Personalized and high-tech dental care and treatments
Sharing your feelings can make a world of a difference. Once your dentist knows how you’re feeling, your team can better assist you and be aware of your needs and concerns. Make sure to:
- Tell the receptionist when you make your appointment. Let her know that you’re nervous about your dental visit and you can possibly share any previous bad experiences and ask for help on coping strategies.
- You can set up a signal with your dentist. Maybe it’s raising your hand when you need a break or feel uncomfortable.
- If you’ve ever dealt with pain from a local anesthetic, let your dentist know right away. Talk with your dentist beforehand about your pain experiences so your dentist can make you more comfortable.
Ask lots of questions
Throughout your appointment, be sure to voice any concerns, questions, or discomfort. Your dental team is there to help. Want to know about a specific instrument or treatment? Ask! Are you beginning to feel anxious and need a moment before continuing treatment? Let your dentist know.
A good dental team will gladly accommodate your requests, explaining what a sensation might be like and ensuring you’re comfortable the entire time.
Distraction is good!
If you can take your mind off a dental exam or procedure and distract yourself, it can be very helpful. Maybe bring headphones if the sound of a drill bothers you. You can listen to your favorite music or maybe an audiobook or podcast. You can also try squeezing a stress ball or try a fidget gadget to keep your hands occupied. Many dental offices also have TVs and magazines that can occupy your attention.
Bring a friend
Ask a friend or family member to join you during your appointment. Whether you want the person to wait out on the lobby during your appointment or in the room with you, having a supportive person nearby can help you feel safer and more relaxed.
Try Some Mindfulness Techniques
Try and relax your mind – this is where relaxation begins. Deep breathing exercises are great for calming and clearing your mind.
- Count your breaths. While you’re waiting for your appointment to begin, or if you have a break, inhale and exhale slowly in the same number of counts. Do this five times.
- You can do a body scan – relaxing each part of your body one section at a time. Start at the top, at your head, and work your way down your body. Relax your muscles and try to release any tension.
Rushing to get to your appointment on time can cause you to get worked up. Don’t put unnecessary stress on the experience. Plan to arrive extra early to give yourself enough time to take it slow.
If it will help, arrive early enough to enjoy a few extra minutes in the lobby, talking to the front desk staff, asking questions, or just relaxing.
A few more tips
- Avoid caffeine and sugar before any appointments – these can make you jittery and more anxious. Instead, eat a high protein meal.
- Choose an appointment time that is the least stressful for you.
GPS Dental is Accepting New Patients
If you’re looking for a new dental home, Dr. Skrobanek and his Team at GPS Dental look forward to meeting you during your dental exam and cleaning. If you suffer from dental anxiety, we are here to help. Your appointment will be catered to your needs, ensuring you feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the appointment. You’ll be informed and educated along the way and have plenty of time to ask questions and get the answers you need to feel confident. Let us know what we can do to deliver the best possible experience.
Dr. Gary P. Skrobanek is a dental implant dentist and his experienced, friendly team at GPS Dental offer affordable family dentistry and gentle dental care in the San Antonio, TX area. Our Brooks City Base dentist office is conveniently located and offers early morning appointment times Monday through Friday to meet your needs. At GPS Dental, we provide most dental services, from family and general dentistry to dental implants, sleep apnea, TMJ / TMD Treatment, cosmetic dentistry and much more. We accept most dental insurance plans and offer affordable financial solutions for any budget. Call us at (210) 633-3477 to make an appointment.