Scared to Go to the Dentist? How to Easily Cope With Dental Anxiety

The notification pops up on your calendar.

Your dentist appointment is tomorrow at 9 AM.

The fear starts to set in. Whether it’s a cleaning, x-rays, or a cavity filling, going to the dentist can be terrifying. 

If you experience anxiety when you go to the dentist, keep reading to learn how to cope with dental anxiety.

Establish Guidelines

Sometimes, the most nerve-wracking part of going to the dentist is that you don’t 100 percent know what they’ll be doing. Especially for those going to pediatric dentists, because they often work with younger kids.

Pediatric dentists may feel that it’s best not to mention that they’re giving you a shot to numb your gums or that they’ll be using some sharp-looking tools near your mouth today. 

If you’re old enough that you would rather know when a needle is coming near you, be sure to ask! Many dentists can also provide a handheld mirror so that you can see exactly what they’re doing. 

Share Your Fears

It’s absolutely vital to share your fears with your dentist. If they don’t know that you’re experiencing dental anxiety they have no way to help. 

Once they know about your fears, they’ll be able to help narrow down what exactly it is that makes you nervous and they’ll be able to help find ways to address these anxieties. 

Establish Hand Signals

A great way to lower your anxiety level while at the dentist is to establish hand signals. This will give you a feeling of empowerment because you’ll still be able to communicate even if you can’t talk. 

  • A fist held up for “stop”
  • A thumbs up for “I’m doing okay”
  • A hand on your stomach for “I need a break”

Try starting with just a few so that you can work out what you need to communicate with your dentist. 

Focus on Slow and Regular Breathing

If you’re new to breathing exercises, meditation apps, YouTube videos, or taking a few yoga or pilates classes can help you learn how to breathe to slow your heart rate. Slowing your heart is an effective way of reducing anxiety because you’re telling your body that there’s nothing to be nervous about. 

Most dentists will ask you to breathe through your nose so as not to fog-up their mirrors. Practice your slow and regular breathing at home going in through your nose and out through your nose. 

Listen to Music

If it’s the sounds of metal scraping or drills buzzing that makes you nervous, put in some headphones to help eliminate the noise. Be sure to let your dentist know what you’re doing and let them know if it’s okay for them to take out your earpiece if they need to talk to you.

Make sure to wear headphones that won’t get in the way of their work. A pair of Bluetooth headphones that sit in your ears (rather than large over-ear ones) are probably best so as to avoid cord entanglements.

Choose a Low-Stress Time for Your Appointment

The stress of our daily to-do lists can cause a great deal of added anxiety. Pick a day for your appointment where you can set aside several hours if need be to take the appointment nice and slow.

Choosing a Saturday morning and promising to take yourself out for lunch after can be a great way to reduce your dental anxiety. 

Find Someone Well Reviewed 

A great way to reduce your dental anxiety is to ask your friends and family for recommendations. If they have a dentist that they absolutely love, you’ll feel better about working with a new dentist. 

Sedation Dentistry

If all else fails and dental anxiety still reigns supreme, consider sedation dentistry

Sedation dentistry helps patients relax by medicating them while they’re in the chair. It’s sometimes known as sleep dentistry, although patients are usually not completely under general anesthesia.

There are several levels of sedation that you can choose between:

  1. Minimal sedation where you’re still awake but you’ll be generally more relaxed
  2. Moderate sedation (conscious sedation) in which you’ll be awake but it will be hard to remember the procedure and you’ll probably slur
  3. Deep sedation where you’re on the very edge of consciousness but are still technically awake
  4. General anesthesia where you’re completely unconscious 

When you first start sedation dentistry you’ll work with the dentist to establish a level of sedation that will be best for you. Additionally, there are also different types of sedation that are used.

  • Inhaled minimal sedation: Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is inhaled to help you relax. The dentist controls how much you receive and the effects wear off quickly. You’ll be able to drive yourself home after this, unlike any other sedation.
  • Oral sedation: Depending on the type, oral sedation offers different effects. For minimal sedation, you will likely take a pill that will make you drowsy. This is the type of sedation most commonly associated with oral sedation.
  • IV moderate sedation: IV sedation happens through a vein and takes effect quickly. The anesthesiologist will be able to adjust the level of sedation throughout the procedure. 
  • Deep sedation/general anesthesia: You’ll be completely knocked out while under deep sedation/general anesthesia and will not be woken up easily.

If you’re interested in giving sedation dentistry a try, check out sedation dentistry in your area today. 

Go to the Dentist Without Dental Anxiety Today

Going to the dentist doesn’t have to mean that you need to live with an icy pit in your stomach for the week beforehand. 

There are many ways to cope with dental anxiety, including sedation dentistry. It may just be the answer to all of your problems!

Now that you know how to cope with anxiety when you go to the dentist, keep reading to learn more about finding the best businesses near you.