Many adults experience nerves before and during a trip to the dentist—let’s face it, going to the dentist isn’t fun. It’s okay to be scared before an appointment. However, that fear can negatively affect your health it if means you’re avoiding necessary dental work. Here are a few things you can do to help ease dental-visit jitters and make the whole experience more comfortable.
Let Your Dentist Know
Communication is important. Tell your dentist that you are nervous about dental visits and they will do what they can to make you feel more at ease. If you’re able to pinpoint exactly what triggers your fear (the sound of the drill? The feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next?), tell your dentist the specifics so that they can help come up with a strategy to make it easier for you to handle your appointment.
At the beginning of your appointment, agree on a hand signal with your dentist that means you need them to stop what they’re doing and check in with you. Your hand signal doesn’t need to only communicate that you’re in pain–it’s completely okay to just need a break periodically. Having hand signals will help you feel in control, even if you don’t end up using them.
Understand That There’s No Need to Feel Embarrassed or Ashamed
Maybe you’ve been putting off going to the dentist for a long time and are embarrassed or ashamed of the state of your teeth. Don’t let that make you put it off even longer! Dentists are used to patients whose oral hygiene isn’t the best or who haven’t been in for a cleaning in years (remember, dental anxiety is super common so you are not the only one who’s been putting off your visit). You are not going to shock them—they’ve almost definitely seen worse. Getting over feelings of shame and embarrassment is easier said than done but knowing that your dentist isn’t judging you can help to alleviate some of those unpleasant emotions.
Pick a Dentist That Puts Your Comfort First
The best way to manage your dental anxiety is to make sure your dentist is the right fit for you. If your dentist makes you feel uncomfortable or doesn’t respect your fears, it’s probably time to try a new clinic. At Tsawwassen Family Dental, we do everything we can to make your dental visit more relaxing and less stressful. Our clinic is set up so that each patient has a private dental suite that their appointment is conducted in. We provide calming music, aromatherapy, and nature views to make your visit as comfortable and relaxing as possible.
Applying mindfulness techniques during your dentist appointment can be very effective for relieving anxiety. Focus on your breath, making sure it is slow and deep. Try this mindful breathing exercise: inhale for 4 counts and then exhale for 4 counts and repeat until you feel calmer. You can also try focusing on a mantra or affirmation in your head if that helps you (try something comforting like “I am safe,” “I am relaxed,” or “I am taking care of myself”).
Listen to Music
Bring headphones and listen to your favourite music to distract and calm your mind. This is especially helpful for those whose anxiety is prompted by the sound of the dentist drill (one of the most common triggers of anxiety at the dentist), because your music can drown it out and give you something positive to direct your attention to.
Take Somebody with You
Some people find having a spouse, family member, or close friend with them at the dentist reduces their anxious feelings. Most dentists are fine with this—just let them know beforehand that you’d like to have someone with you. Bring a person you are completely comfortable around who makes you feel safe to your appointment and see how it changes your experience.
Sometimes the fear of going to the dentist has to do with financial stress more than physical fear. Dental visits can get pricey if your insurance doesn’t cover it, but dentists understand this and are often willing to work with you to figure out a solution. Talk to your dentist and see if they can help come up with a payment plan that works for you. We get that finances are a huge source of stress and offer payment plans to help take some of the pressure off.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
The better care you take of your teeth, the less scary your next dental appointment will be. Brush twice daily, floss, go in for regular cleanings, and follow your dentist’s oral care recommendations to maintain healthier teeth and gums. This will prevent more intrusive dental work in the future.
At Tsawwassen Family Dental, we understand that going to the dentist can be a stressful experience and we do everything we can to help you feel comfortable and in control. Our dental providers are gentle, friendly, and always put their patients’ wellbeing first.