Did you know that 36% of the USA’s population suffers from Dental Phobia, or fear of the dentist, with 12% suffering from extreme fear? Whether you fear potential pain, the unknown, sensory overload, or claustrophobia, or if your fear is from a previous traumatic experience, your feelings are valid!
Thankfully, your dental phobia does not have to stop you from receiving the necessary care! At Charvet Dental, we strive to create a stress-free, welcoming environment, so all our patients feel comfortable and confident. We understand that patients with dental phobia need a little more reassurance. To help you feel less anxious at your next appointment, we’ve put together this list of things you can try to remain cool, calm, and collected.
Why do I need to go to the dentist?
Unfortunately, many people with Dental Phobia avoid the dentist, which means their oral health declines! To encourage you to feel excited, or at least motivated, about going to the dentist, we wanted to tell you some ways Charvet Dental can benefit you.
Dental checkups occur once a year for most patients, though your dentist might recommend more frequent visits if they feel it’s necessary. What happens at these visits that’s so important? We’ll tell you!
- Your dental hygienist will X-ray and photograph your teeth for oral records and to monitor your health over time.
- Then, your hygienist will professionally clean your teeth and gums, usually with fluoride.
- Afterward, your dentist will thoroughly examine the mouth for tooth decay, gum disease, infections, mouth cancer, and other issues.
- If they find cause for concern, they’ll discuss and set up a treatment plan with you.
It’s critical to consistently attend these appointments so your dentist can find and treat problems before they cause lasting damage to your health and smile.
If that sounds scary, don’t worry! We have tips to help you make it to and through your appointment.
How can I ease my dental anxiety?
We’re happy to say there are multiple ways to ease your dental anxiety, some of which can even be done simultaneously! While we can’t promise this will remove your fear completely, they can help you remain calm, so you get the care you need.
Be honest with your dentist.
Our most important tip is to be honest with your oral healthcare provider. Honesty allows your doctor’s team the opportunity to prep for your arrival, such as playing serene music, setting up a television, or getting out blankets and eye masks.
At some offices, they might have employees that are better suited to handle your care. For example, if they have a hygienist with experience dealing with anxiety, they’ll try to ensure the employee takes care of you during your visit.
Being honest with us at Charvet Dental and your other oral healthcare providers is also helpful for our other tips!
Bring a friend or a comfort item (or two or three).
Distractions are incredibly helpful to curb anxiety or get through something that scares you.
You can bring a friend to talk with you before, during, or after the appointment when you feel stressed or to speak to you while the dentist works so you can have something else on which to focus. Be sure to ask your dental office beforehand if the room will be big enough for guests! If it’s not, your dental team is probably just as fun and interesting to talk to, too!
We also recommend you bring items that bring you comfort, like your favorite hoodie or stuffed animal. Interactive items like stress balls or fidget toys are great ideas too! Your dentist might even have them in the office!
There might be times in the session when you can’t talk or use your distraction items. During those moments, you can practice mindfulness! Mindfulness is the practice of sitting with feelings that make you uncomfortable and trying to be okay with them. This emotional tool is a great one to master and can help you in many aspects of life, even outside a dental office!
One way you can practice mindfulness during your appointment is by regulating your breathing using “The Rectangle Method.” To do this breathing exercise, you should:
- Try finding a rectangle in the room, such as a window or a large poster.
- Let your eyes trace the edges.
- Breathe out on the long edges and in on the short edges.
If you cannot see a rectangle, try breathing in and out at four counts each. Repeat either exercise as needed.
If your dental team is aware of your anxieties, they can help monitor your breathing and ask you to do The Rectangle Method if they know your triggers or notice a change in your breathing pattern.
Ask for breaks.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed or severely anxious, and your distractions aren’t working, ask for a break! You can use a break to talk to your friend, put all your attention into your comfort or distraction objects, and regulate your breathing. If none of the above is working, that’s okay! There are more ways to calm down.
Before your appointment, you could download a relaxing app to help with anxiety or panic attacks to use during your break. You could also try counting objects in the room, like the number of ceiling or floor tiles.
Remember, your dentist wants you to feel confident and comfortable in their chair! If your visit is unpleasant, you will continue to associate the dentist with scary things, which could prevent you from getting the care you need in the future. They would be happy to give you a moment to relax. If your team knows about your dental phobia, they can offer you breaks during your appointment when it is most optimal or if they notice that you look unwell.
For some, no amount of calming exercises will help, and you might want to consider asking your dentist to prescribe anxiety medication to take one hour before your appointment. You might need the prescription before every appointment or only before procedures.
Sometimes getting in the door is the hardest part of overcoming dental phobias, but medication can make that easier. We recommend still bringing distractions, comfort items, and having breaks, just in case!
Depending on the medication and the dosage, you might need someone to take you to and from your appointment. Make sure you are aware of how the medication will affect you before taking it.
Charvet Dental would love to help you face your dental fears and help you realize it’s not scary!
Have you ever been scared to ride a ride at the fair, but it wasn’t so scary once you did it? And the more you rode it, the less daunting it became? Knowing what to expect removed many unknowns and, in turn, reduced your fear.
Dental care unnerves many people, but it doesn’t need to! The more you experience it, the less frightening it’ll be, just like the ride at the fair. Charvet Dental wants to provide everyone in the Metairie, LA area with dental care that can help improve quality of life. To learn more about us and what we can do for your dental phobia, contact us to speak to a kind and welcoming staff member. They will happily answer your questions and help you book an appointment with our compassionate and understanding team.
We can’t wait to help conquer your fear!