For most dental-phobic people, going to the dentist is simply a necessary evil, while others may avoid it at all costs. Though your dental appointments should be painless, experiencing fear is absolutely okay! Here are a few tactics that may help you have a comfortable dental experience at your next appointment!
1. Talk with your dentist or hygienist about exactly what makes you Scared
Before your appointment begins, have an honest chat with your provider about the root of your phobia: is it the needle used for freezing, the sound of the drill, a feeling of claustrophobia, or a negative dental experience from the past? The dental professional should have an honest conversation with you about what to expect and how to accomplish the goal of the appointment (cleaning, filling, root canal, etc.) while making you as comfortable as possible. The most important first step is having a trusting relationship with your dental team.
To ease their stress, some patients prefer to know the details of every step of the procedure, while others prefer to know nothing beforehand so as to not stress about what exactly is happening to their teeth. Let your dental provider know if you have a preference!
2. Bring Comfort Items
Feel free to bring your own blanket or call the dental office ahead of time to find out if they provide blankets or other items that may ease your worries about having a dental appointment.
3. Bring a friend or family member with you
Along the same lines as above, many dental offices will let you bring a support person with you to your appointment! They can provide moral support, distraction, hold your hand, or just be there for you.
Flipping this suggestion around, it may be helpful for you to accompany a friend or family member to their appointment first. This may help you become more comfortable in the dental office setting, get to know some of the staff, and see what goes on during the appointment. Exposure to the sights and sounds beforehand may help ease your anxiety before going in for your own appointment.
4. Listen to music
If it is the unpleasant sounds of poking, prodding, and drilling that make you uneasy, try bringing earbuds or headphones to listen to your own music, audiobook, or podcast! Settle in, focus on your breathing, and get into a calm headspace while hearing a playlist with familiar music that you know will comfort you. If this doesn’t appeal to you, your dental provider might also ask you for music recommendations to play out loud during the appointment or you can request silence!
5. Ask about sedative options
Nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas) can be a great option for nervous patients and is offered by many general and family dental practices. It is breathed through a rubber nose mask during the entire procedure (or for certain parts of it like getting frozen) and helps you feel floaty, tingly, and not so concerned about what is going on around you. It has very few side effects, and within a few minutes of breathing regular oxygen at the end of the appointment, you’ll be feeling back to normal and able to drive yourself home safely.
If this doesn’t sound like enough to ease your worries, have a chat with your dentist about other sedation options to find what works best for you!
In the end, the staff at your dental office should be kind, understanding, and accommodating towards your worries and fears. It is important to have open and honest two-way communication for the best results! If all else fails, it may be time to start the search for a new dental office that would better accommodate your needs or to work with a licensed therapist to try and work through some of your dental anxiety.