How did your last dentist appointment go? Do you normally get anxious the minute you step into the office? You’re not alone; many other patients feel the same way. Luckily there are many ways you can ease anxiety when going to the dentist. Use the methods and techniques found in this article to help reduce your anxiety to have a smoother and more comfortable next appointment.
Avoid Sugar and Caffeine
While it’s not a hard rule to never eat or drink sugar or caffeine before visiting the dentist, it’s best to avoid them if you get anxious when you’re there. Sugar and caffeine will make you more fidgety and restless, heightening your nerves instead of relaxing them.
Instead, skip the sugary and caffeinated drinks and stick with water—plus, you will want your teeth as clean as possible before going to your appointment. And if you need a little pick-me-up, consider drinking a calming caffeine-free tea, like lavender or mint tea. This should help settle your nerves before seeing your dentist.
Find a Dentist That Handles Dental Anxiety Well
Not every dentist is the same, so some will handle situations differently than others. If this is your first visit with a new dentist, and you’re likely to get anxious during appointments, speak to your provider about this. They will give you information on how they would respond to this type of situation. If you decide you’re uncomfortable with one dentist, don’t be afraid to find another one within your insurance network whom you are comfortable seeing.
In general, dentists understand the anxiety some patients feel and can handle these scenarios with ease. One thing that can help tremendously is if your dentist explains to you what they are doing every step of the appointment. For example, if you need a filling, ask your provider to explain the steps, and if they can count down from five before they begin any drilling. This way, you know what to expect during this procedure and get a break between the drilling to calm your nerves.
Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises are perfect for individuals who suffer from anxiety because they are quick and easy ways to calm nerves in many situations. The more oxygen you breathe in, the more your heart rate and mind slow down. Breathing techniques help stimulate relaxation and return everything to equilibrium.
We recommend trying the 4-7-8 deep breathing method. This entails inhaling deeply through your nose for four seconds, holding it for seven seconds, and then exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this process as many times as you need until you feel your mind and nerves calming and slowing down. Practice this breathing technique at home before your appointment, and remember to do it during pauses in your appointment to keep your nerves in check.
Distract Yourself With Technology
The more you can distract yourself from what is happening during your appointment, the less you will think about your anxiety. Consider finding a dentist with TVs inside the patient rooms that you can watch during your cleaning or filling, or ask if they play music for patients. Oftentimes, the dentist’s office will have this technology available to help calm patients. You could even ask if they have a warming blanket or weighted blanket to help keep you comfortable as well.
Bring a Family Member or Friend
Sometimes all we need in high-anxiety situations is a trusting family member or friend to offer moral support. Having someone familiar in the room with you will help ease your anxiety when going to the dentist because you won’t be in an unfamiliar place alone. Plus, these individuals likely know you well and understand which methods help calm your nerves better than the dentist or the staff at the office.
Don’t Arrive Too Early
They always say it’s best to arrive at your appointments at least 15 minutes before the actual start time, so you can fill out any paperwork with the front desk. Instead, consider asking the office to send you home with the paperwork. This way, you can fill it out in the comfort of your home and avoid waiting too long in the lobby before the appointment.
The sooner you arrive, the more time you’ll spend in the waiting room, which could heighten your nerves. This is because your brain knows what is about to happen, and you can psych yourself out. Know when your appointment time is, tell the front desk you plan on coming, and arrive about five minutes before the appointment to help reduce as much anxiety as possible.
Plan Ahead of Time
When you schedule your appointment, choose a day that works best for you. If you already know you’ll have anxiety, schedule the visit on a day when you don’t have to return to work or run any errands. This allows you to get through your appointment and spend the rest of your day relaxing and recuperating.
Essentially, consider the day of your appointment as a self-care day. You’ll receive a teeth cleaning, and afterward, you can camp out on the couch watching your favorite movies and shows with your favorite beverage and food. You might even want to take a bath or do something else for self-care!
Take a Medication
Sometimes, we do everything right and prepare as best as we can, and that won’t be enough to keep the anxiety at bay. Don’t let that get you down; everyone handles their stress and anxiety differently, and there is nothing wrong with needing the help of medication to calm you down. Speak with your doctor before your dentist appointment to see if you could benefit from an anxiety medication to take before appointments with your dentist.
Alternatively, your dentist may be able to offer you nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help ease your nerves during the appointment. If your anxiety levels get too high, this is worth speaking to your dentist about. You might not need this for every appointment—just the major procedures. For example, teeth cleanings are far less invasive than a filling or a root canal, so you might only need the laughing gas for those more extensive procedures.
At Cal Dental Group, we understand that every patient handles their dental anxiety differently. While not every patient will suffer from anxiety, it’s very common, and we want to help you so that you can receive proper oral care.
Remember, anxiety is normal, and there is nothing wrong if you get anxious at the dentist. Use the methods we discuss in this article at your next visit with a general dental service to help calm your nerves—you got this!