Few of us look forward to a visit to the dentist’s office, but for some 15% of Americans, it’s more than uncomfortable – it’s downright terrifying. For those suffering from dental phobia, it may seem like the easiest way to avoid it is to stop going to the dentist. but that does more harm than good.
It’s important to note the difference between anxiety and phobia, however. Anxiety may show itself as uneasiness or worry surrounding your appointment that may be exaggerated. A phobia, on the other hand, is an intense fear or dread that can leave you panic-stricken.
There are a number of reasons someone might be dreading an upcoming dental appointment, but the most common include anticipation of pain, negative past experiences, embarrassment, vulnerability, and even the sights, sounds and smells associated with the office.
At Dental Depot, we’re committed to being compassionate and treating you like family. That means doing our best to make you comfortable. Here are our 7 best tips for how to handle your dental anxiety:
- Talk to us first. If you’re a new patient to our office, please let us know you’re nervous when you call to set up your appointment so our team can be prepared ahead of time to help put you at ease. Even if you’re a returning patient and anxious about an upcoming treatment, talk us through what you’re worried about so we can make you comfortable.
- Bring a buddy. Often, it helps to have someone you trust come along to your appointment. We even provide chairs in each of our ops for your plus one. Sometimes just having a familiar face in the room who can talk to you or hold your hand can calm even the most rattled nerves.
- Time it right. There’s nothing worse than waiting in the lobby longer than you have to for an appointment you’re already not looking forward to. To cut down on wait time, new patients are encouraged to fill out their new patient paperwork, medical history, and consent form in advance. Additionally, you may want to schedule your appointment for a time of day when you won’t be rushed.
- Bring some soothing tunes. Headphones or earbuds are always welcome to help tune out the din of a drill and let you listen to some chill music, a podcast or even that audiobook you’ve been meaning to get around to.
- Agree on a sign for breaks. Talk to your team before you get started to agree on a signal to let them know you need a breather, usually raising the left hand since most dentists sit on your right side.
- Ask to see our comfort menu. At Dental Depot we’re happy to offer a variety of items to help you feel more at ease including warm blankets and neck pillows. If you’re a fan of weighted blankets, you might find yourself enjoying the weight of the x-ray vest.
- When in doubt, laugh it out. Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is available at all of our offices and we’ve found it’s a good way to take the edge off of most people’s nerves. Similar to how deep breathing exercises can help calm normal nerves, focusing on your breathing with the help of laughing gas should help you feel more calm than silly. Don’t worry, you won’t need a driver if you choose to use it – we administer oxygen when you’re finished to help bring you back to normal. Ask if your insurance helps cover nitrous at your appointment.
Whatever your dental fears, know that we want to help you overcome them because you deserve to take care of your smile in the way that only a dental team can. Communication about what upsets you and how we can work together to avoid or alleviate stressors goes a long way toward having a successful dental visit.
If these steps don’t feel manageable for you due to the level of your dental phobia, it might be time to consider additional help, such as sedation dentistry.