5 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist

Dreading your annual dental checkup is perfectly natural. With the abundance of sharp hooks, bright lights and oral drills found in the typical dentist’s office, you’ll have a hard time finding an anxiety-free patient. However, no matter how much trepidation you feel, it’s important to understand that your dentist has your best interest at heart. When looking for ways to overcome dental anxiety, you can’t go wrong with the following tips.

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Bring a Friend or Family Member

Inviting a close friend or family member to tag along on your next trip to the dentist can be an effective way to relieve stress. Not only can you discuss your anxiety with your confidante on the drive to the dentist’s office, you can also hold her hand while waiting for your name to be called in the reception area. Alternatively, talking about issues that are completely unrelated to your fears is liable to provide a welcome distraction and take your mind off the whole ordeal. Since many dentists are sympathetic to anxious patients, yours may even allow your friend to accompany you into the exam room.

Talk to a Counselor or Therapist

If your fear of the dentist has prevented you from having regular cleanings or checkups, a counselor or therapist can help. When exploring your options, look for someone who specializes in helping patients overcome fear. Since dentists are no strangers to fearful patients, yours may even be able to recommend an appropriate counselor. After identifying the root causes of your anxiety and engaging in exposure and response prevention (ERP) exercises, you’ll be able to walk into your dentist’s office with your head held high.

Breathing Exercises

In many cases, the anticipation of going to the dentist is far worse than the actual experience. Generally, if you can make it to your dentist’s office without being overcome by stress, you’ll be all right. To this end, engage in deep breathing exercises while sitting in your dentist’s reception area. Taking slow, measured breaths for five to ten minutes will enable you to enter the exam room with a relaxed mind and peaceful demeanor.

Distract Yourself

Focusing on something else while undergoing cleaning or cavity-filling can help get you through a dentist visit with ease. For example, closing your eyes and listening to music on your smartphone or iPod is an easy way to distract yourself while the dentist operates. Alternatively, if your dentist has a television in her exam room, try shifting your full attention to whatever program is currently airing.

Sedation

If nothing else is able to quell your fear of the dentist, give your dentist’s office a call and discuss the sedation options offered to timid patients. To accommodate fearful patrons, many dentists provide sedation for a wide range of procedures. In some cases, patients can even undergo basic cleanings while sleeping peacefully. Before committing to sedation, make sure you’re aware of any additional costs associated with this service.

Regular dental checkups are vitally important to your oral health. So if fear has impaired your ability to see your dentist, it’s imperative that you act immediately. Anxiety can only ruin your healthy smile if you let it.

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