If the thought of going to the dentist makes you feel anxious, you’re not alone.Experts estimate that 9-15% of Americans don’t go to the dentist when they should because of fear or anxiety. Most people feel some level of anxiety about being in the chair, even though the majority of routine dental procedures are painless.
Communication is the first step
If you have a more run-of-the-mill dental anxiety and not a phobia, but you still find yourself postponing routine care, there are steps you can take to help you stay calm. First, talk to Dr. Hill. When she’s aware you’re scared or anxious, she can discuss potential treatment options that may help.
One way to help yourself remain calm during a dental visit is to distract yourself. Everyone is different, but most people have at least one thing they find particularly pleasant that may help take their minds off the task at hand. Some possibilities include:
- Music — create a soothing playlist to take along
- Audiobooks — some people get lost in a good story
- Podcasts — the dentist’s chair is a good place to catch up on all those episodes you’ve missed
- Guided imagery — imagine yourself in a pleasant place and think of as many details as possible
There are several relaxation techniques you can practice, both to reduce anxiety at the dentist’s office and to reduce stress at other times. Lowering overall stress can help reduce anxiety related to specific things, including dental visits.
Simply being aware of your breathing can have a calming effect. Noticing how it feels as you inhale and exhale is soothing. There are also breathing exercises such as breathing in for a specific count, holding your breath as you count to a set number, then exhaling for a count.
The exact time isn’t important, but counting and maintaining a regular ratio will help you feel more calm.
Beginning with your toes, contract your muscles, then relax them. Work your way all the way up your body, consciously contracting and relaxing each muscle. Keeping your muscles relaxed leads to less pain, and the process of slowly contracting and relaxing will have a calming effect.
The anxiety most people feel related to dental visits has to do with a fear of pain. In fact, modern dentistry can be close to painless, and for any procedures that may be painful, there are techniques to make you more comfortable.
One example is sedation dentistry, which is sometimes called sleep dentistry. There are four basic types of sedation: minimal, moderate, deep, and general anesthesia.
Minimal sedation is when you are awake, but relaxed. This state can be achieved through inhaling nitrous oxide, or through a carefully controlled dose of oral sedation.
Moderate sedation can cause you to slur your words and possibly not remember the procedure. Dr. Hill may give you oral medication or use intravenous delivery of medication.
Both deep sedation and general anesthesia render you either totally or nearly unconscious. You won’t remember the procedure.
To learn more about your options and to find out whether you’re a candidate for sedation dentistry, book an appointment online or phone the office. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs and answer all of your questions.