Even the most benign appointment at the dentist can be nerve-wracking. Many of us dread our appointment in the days leading up to it, and the visit itself can feel like forever. Indeed, many people simply avoid the dentist due to their dental anxiety, which can be extremely detrimental to your health long-term.
Dental phobia is very common, affecting between 13 percent and 24 percent of people. This phobia can manifest as anxiety for some and near terror for others, stemming from bad past experiences or a lack of exposure to dentists.
To help you make the most out of your next appointment, our team at Crescent Heights has a few tricks to help you relax, before and during your appointment. Hopefully, we can provide you with a few tools that will help you get through your next appointment, and make it a much less nerve-wracking experience.
Before the Appointment
1) Audiobooks, music, and podcasts
Ideally you’d be able to take a seat in your dentist’s chair, but it doesn’t usually go that way. You have to sit around in the waiting area beforehand and sometimes appointments run over time, letting your nerves brew in the pit of your stomach.
Listening to an audiobook, music or podcast will help you by either distracting you from the appointment ahead of you or putting you in a different frame of mind. While you wait to be called in, your mind may be elsewhere — and so you aren’t thinking about your dreaded appointment. Your favourite song or a hilarious book will put you in a more upbeat mood.
2) Don’t arrive too early
While you need to give yourself time for traffic and to check in at reception, waiting around can also be a problem. Anxiety can build up as you wonder when you’ll be called as the inevitable slowly approaches. Arriving in time, rather than with time to spare, gives less time for your nerves to grow and allows you to finish your trip to the dentist more quickly.
3) Choose a low-stress time
Fitting in appointments can be tricky between work and other commitments. Appointments during the day or late in the afternoon can be rushed as you try to get out of work and beat the traffic, leaving you little time to prepare.
Avoid arriving flustered or more nervous by scheduling your treatment for a quieter time. This will give you time to prepare properly, clean your teeth and make your way over without having to rush. Scheduling for a less busy time such as an early morning may also mean less time waiting to be seen.
4) Walk to the appointment
Walking, like any form of exercise, raises your heart rate and releases endorphins, which helps you reduce and counteract stress. On top of this, research shows that taking a walk will give you time to work through the anxiety you’re facing.
So, if you live close enough, try walking to the dentist. Get off the bus a stop or two early, or park your car away from the office. The exercise will help reduce your stress and offers a productive way to prepare for your appointment.
5) Speak up
Talk to your dentist about the anxiety you experience. Explaining how you feel will make the dentist aware that you have difficulties facing an appointment. As a result, they will know to take extra measures to comfort you. You could do this when you make your appointment, in the few days before, or even when you walk into the room.
Dentists are used to dealing with patients who experience anxiety and will be able to suggest coping strategies to use throughout. As well, ask them questions before you get started about what they’ll be doing. This will help you rationalize any pokes, prods, and twinges.
Agree on a few signals with your dentist so that they know when or if you are uncomfortable and need to stop.
During the Appointment
6) Schedule breaks
Particularly if you are in for a long session of treatment, scheduling breaks — and/or using prearranged signals to break up the appointment — will give you a rest and make the appointment seem more manageable. By starting and restarting when you are ready and comfortable, you can feel more in control and empowered.
Throughout the treatment, you will know that you can stop it whenever you like — this in itself should help ease some worries.
7) Mindfulness and focusing on your breathing
When people are nervous they hold their breath more than usual. This reduces the regular intake of oxygen which can lead to feelings of panic.
Focus on breathing slowly and regularly to reduce stress levels and the likelihood of panicking. Listen to your breathing to distract you from the procedure.
Another great tip is to try a body scan. Concentrate on trying to relax your muscles one at a time, working down from your head to your toes to release all the tension you are feeling. The more you keep your breathing centred, the less likely you’ll be to experience panic during the appointment.
8) Distraction techniques
Trying to focus on something else other than the treatment is a simple idea, but easier said than done. However, it is still worth doing to reduce your fixation on the procedure at hand.
Dentists are conscious of the need for distraction and often arrange their rooms to help their patients take their minds off of the treatment. Often you will find the radio is on and they have placed funny postcards on the ceiling.
Listen carefully to what’s on the radio; maybe there’s a debate or news item that can engage your mind.
Other distractions include:
- Squeezing a stress ball
- Closing your eyes
- Holding a soft toy or doll
- Listening to music or podcasts through your earphones
Need a Caring Dentistry?
Our team at Crescent Heights knows how to comfort patients that are weary of dental care. When you set up an appointment, you can be confident knowing that we’ll keep you in comfort every step of the way.