What Can Be Done About My Dental Anxiety?
Don’t let dental anxiety stop you from getting the care you deserve.
Have you heard of “white coat syndrome?” It refers to people who experience nervousness and anxiety in the presence of someone wearing a white coat — generally, their doctor or dentist.
If the thought of visiting the dentist makes you feel anxious, you’re not alone. Experts estimate that 36% of people deal with some degree of dental anxiety.
How can you overcome this common obstacle and get the dental treatment you need to stay healthy? What can you do to feel calmer before, during, and after your dental visit? We’ll answer those questions and more, so keep reading to learn how to reduce some stress.
What is dental anxiety?
First of all, you should know that dental anxiety is a recognized (and treatable) disorder.
In one survey, 73% of participants admit that they’ve lied to their dentist about something as simple as how often they brush their teeth. While many feel ashamed, the second most common reason for lying is dental anxiety.
Like other types of anxiety, there are many reasons why someone might feel anxious about visiting the dentist. Some may have trust issues or feel like they’re not in control. A few have had a traumatic dental experience in the past. Others may have associated conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that make it challenging to seek dental care.
Dental anxiety can manifest as any or all of these symptoms:
- Racing heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Nervous sweating
- Low blood pressure
- Panic attacks
These physical symptoms of anxiety are unpleasant, but prolonged apprehension about seeing a dentist can lead to more problems down the road. Patients with severe anxiety may skip routine cleanings or suggested procedures, resulting in more extensive (and costly) dental work in the future.
How to Manage Dental Anxiety
If you’re dealing with dental anxiety, we don’t need to explain the symptoms to you. Perhaps you felt anxious just reading the section above. Let’s focus on the goal: overcoming your anxiety so you can receive the dental care you need. Here are some suggestions to help you manage your concerns before, during, and after your treatment.
1. Before Your Appointment
If you haven’t yet found a dentist you trust, start by reading reviews. Many patients who also deal with anxiety might mention this in a review, as well as how the dentist helped them overcome their apprehension. Another suggestion is to ask friends and family members for recommendations. If you hear a glowing review about a certain dentist from somebody you trust, this can help reduce your anxiety.
When you call to book an appointment, be open and honest about your anxiety. Don’t be ashamed to admit that dental visits make you nervous. The receptionist will share this information with the dentist and can explain common coping strategies, such as sedation dentistry.
When you arrive for your visit, remind the dentist and other staff about your anxiety. If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, tell them about it. If you’re worried about a particular aspect of the treatment, ask specific questions. Oftentimes, our biggest worry is the fear of the unknown. Giving your dentist the chance to explain a procedure in detail can help lay some of your worries to rest.
2. During Your Appointment
You’re in the chair, you’ve talked to your dentist, and the cleaning or procedure is about to begin. What can you do to manage your anxiety and remain calm?
Here are some suggestions that others have used successfully:
- Wear headphones and listen to relaxing music or an audiobook
- If there’s a TV in the room, ask the staff to turn on your favorite channel
- Squeeze a stress ball or twirl a fidget spinner
- Visualize yourself in a relaxing setting, such as a garden or beach
- Count and focus on your breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling
- Focus on relaxing your entire body, one muscle or area at a time
Another tip is to agree on a signal (ahead of time) to let your dentist know if you need to take a break. This could be something as simple as raising your hand. If you experience any discomfort or you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, don’t hesitate to use the signal. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or worry about interrupting the dentist. Their primary concern is keeping you as comfortable and calm as possible throughout the visit!
3. After Your Appointment
Once you’ve successfully faced your dental anxiety, it’s time to celebrate. Breathe a big sigh of relief and reward yourself with self-care or something that makes you feel good. Of course, it takes more than one successful dental visit to keep your mouth healthy. Make it a goal to stick with a schedule of routine cleanings and any follow-up procedures you might need.
The more you delay or avoid going to the dentist, the higher your risk of developing more serious dental problems down the road. Each time you visit your dentist, it should get just a little bit easier. In time, you may overcome your anxiety for good.
And here’s one final suggestion: Be grateful for your teeth and the fact that you have access to good dental care. Why is this important? People who practice gratitude are generally healthier and more optimistic, which helps them experience less anxiety.
Looking for a family dentist in Lakeway or Bee Cave?
If you struggle with dental anxiety, rest assured you’re not alone. Whether your anxiety is mild or severe, your dentist has extensive experience in treating patients just like you. They can recommend the best solutions to help you feel more relaxed and confident during your dental procedure.
Do you live in the Lakeway or Bee Cave area? Our friendly team at Tomasik Family Dental is here to care for all your dental needs. Get in touch with us today and let’s discuss your concerns. Together, we can find the solution to your dental anxiety.