Seeing the dentist regularly isn’t one of most people’s favorite activities—and that might be an understatement. However, dental health is important and goes far past keeping your breath fresh and your smile looking good.
It may surprise you to learn that oral hygiene goes beyond your teeth and mouth, too. A mouth full of plaque and bad bacteria can put you on the road to heart disease.
While everyone knows you’re supposed to see a dentist a couple of times a year, lots of folks with a fear of the dentist make a habit of avoiding these appointments. Before you throw your six-month reminder card in the trash, consider whether it’s time to climb this mountain. Strategies for overcoming dental anxiety are simpler and more accessible than you may realize.
Take a look at this list of simple ways to calm your nerves and boost your confidence before plopping down in the dentist’s chair.
1. Prepare Yourself With Relaxation Strategies
Try some mental relaxation strategies before sitting in the dentist’s chair. If you practice mindfulness and deep breathing techniques already, great! If not, it takes no more than a couple of minutes to learn how to take advantage of these time-tested tricks.
For those who haven’t tried these strategies before, it may be hard to believe some deep breathing can help you overcome dental anxiety. If you have a clinical case of dentophobia that’s tied to a traumatic experience or is otherwise overwhelming, you may need additional help—which you can read about later in this article. In any case, trying these methods is a smart idea because you can add them to your fear management toolset.
Other ways to relax include calming music, enjoying some of your favorite movies or TV beforehand, or promising yourself a treat to look forward to later in the day. You might even get to thinking about your next vacation and picture yourself somewhere you’d rather be. For some goalsetting or reward-oriented people, thinking about something pleasant is enough to get through a hard time.
Snuggling with pets and/or human loved ones before your appointment is another easy way to calm down. Also, consider taking a long, scenic walk and comforting yourself with calming scents such as lavender.
Talking to your family orthodontist can help, too. They might be able to give you advice before your next appointment.
2. Build Your Confidence to Overcome Fear of the Dentist
Relaxation strategies are good for calming your nerves, but they don’t work for everyone. If you’re among that group, building your confidence and preparing to take the challenge head-on with confidence-building exercises may be better.
Both the business world and performers have taken advantage of so-called “power stances” for decades. There’s no doubt that this trick is the perfect way to amp yourself up before giving a big speech. It’s also good for making yourself feel strong in any situation.
The logic behind the technique is that the way you hold your body affects your state of mind. Think about how you sit when you’re nervous: You cross your legs, hunch over, and look at your feet.
If you want to feel confident, aim for the opposite of that.
Sit or stand with your head up and back straightened to whatever extent you can. Take up space with your body in a confident, even arrogant way—think “manspreading,” but less insensitive. Convince yourself that you’re in charge.
You might try a “superhero” pose, putting your hands on your hips and looking straight ahead as if you were standing on the top of a skyscraper (Or on the ground, if you’re afraid of heights!), surveying the city you protect.
Hold the pose for thirty seconds to a minute or so if you have some time. For those sitting in the waiting room and reading this, any time building your confidence is better than none.
Playing superhero as an adult to beat dental fear sounds silly to plenty of folks, but give it a try. You’ll be surprised how much it can change your state of mind.
You can also listen to energizing music or anything else that makes you feel strong and confident.
3. Open up to People You Trust
Many people with phobias, including dentophobia, are too scared or ashamed to open up about their fears. They’re inclined to repress their concerns and act like they don’t exist. Trying to forget negative experiences and feelings is tempting, but it’s rare for these things to disappear.
It might seem counterintuitive to talk about how bad you feel, as it might make you feel worse to address it. However, you’ll feel relief once you talk your feelings through. Confide in loved ones or talk to a mental health professional. Seeing a psychiatrist or therapist is a smart idea if your problem is deep-rooted enough but may help even if your fear isn’t pathological.
4. Don’t Overlook Medicinal Help
Psychological exercises and/or therapy are enough for a large proportion of folks with dental phobia to get past their fear—at least enough to take care of their teeth.
For others, their fears or traumatic experiences are too overpowering to address with those tricks alone. In those cases, medicinal help may be the way to go.
Consider talking to your primary care doctor or psychiatrist about anxiety medication and see if there’s one you want to try. Be cautious, as some drugs might interact with dental anesthetics. Always talk to your dental care team about drug interactions before taking medicine to calm down during your checkup or procedure.
Any good dentist has worked with fearful patients and knows how to help them overcome challenges. You might be able to get a general anesthetic instead of a local anesthetic for some procedures or access another in-clinic remedy for dental fears. You’ll never know without asking, so don’t be shy or ashamed!
What You Need to Know to Live a Confident Life
Now that you know these tips about overcoming your fear of the dentist, your biannual checkups won’t be such an ordeal. If you want to learn more information to help you live a fuller and more confident life, you’re on the right website.
Click another article for more valuable insight and proven tips everyone should know.