At Ellicott Mills Dental, we take dental anxiety seriously. In fact, we specialize in working with patients who suffer from this common condition. Although we offer a variety of sedation techniques including sedation dentistry and pillows and blankets to calm down our more nervous patients, we often encourage our clients to participate in this process. If you want to overcome dental anxiety and avoid oral health issues in the future, try these tips to resume a healthy routine.
1. Choose a Dentist You Trust
Feeling afraid or anxious about visiting the dentist isn’t unusual these days. Whether you had a bad experience at a previous office, or you simply associate visits with pain and stress, you’re not alone. The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine estimates that 30 to 40 million Americans avoid their checkups every year because of dental anxiety.
Not only is this problematic from a professional standpoint—no dentist wants to be feared—but it’s also a health concern. The longer you put off cleanings and other preventative services, the more likely you are to develop oral health issues. Which will likely make future visits even more difficult! So, find a dentist who actually listens to your concerns. Be upfront about your dental anxiety and ask questions that will help to reduce your looming fear of the unknown.
Don’t forget to look for online reviews, too. Reading or hearing about others who struggle with dental anxiety and their positive experience(s) may direct you to a better dentist. Preferably, one who can handle all of your oral health needs in-house. Once you’ve found a dentist you can trust, why go anywhere else? At Ellicott Mills Dental, we’re proud to offer emergency dental services, pediatric dentistry, cosmetic, and even periodontal treatments onsite.
2. Take Steps to Minimize Stress in Advance
Although our sedation options include medication, there are many prescription-free methods to reduce stress before your next visit. It actually starts when you schedule your appointment. Try to pick a time that’s less stressful for you. Is there a day of the week when your schedule is a little lighter? Many people choose to come to the dentist on their day off or first thing in the morning, so they won’t feel rushed or pressured—which can actually make dental anxiety worse.
You should also watch what you eat before your next checkup. Besides being bad for your teeth, caffeine and sugar can make you more anxious. While protein-rich foods often have a calming effect. Even if you’re not hungry, you should still try to eat something before your visit. Dental anxiety on an empty stomach produces unpleasant effects for everyone.
Last, but not least, come prepared! If the sounds/smells of your average dentist office bother you, then bring something to block them out. Build your own relaxing playlist and pop in headphones during your next visit. Add just a hint of your favorite perfume or essential oils to the pressure points behind your ears for a pleasant, calming scent throughout your checkup.
3. Try These Breathing Exercises
Did you know that most people hold their breath when they feel nervous? Unfortunately, this habit often decreases oxygen levels in your brain, which leads to further feelings of panic. In order to offset this instinct and overcome your dental anxiety, try a few breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques. If you focus on breathing slowly and regularly—counting as you go—not only will you control your breath. But also, you’ll naturally reduce your stress levels.
You can also use the body scan technique, which focuses your attention on different parts of your body, rather than on the dental anxiety at hand. If you’ve practiced yoga and/or meditation before, you’ve probably performed some variation of this exercise. Start from your head or feet, focusing on releasing the tension in each body part—one by one. After you work from one end to the other, you should feel more relaxed. Plus, a portion of your appointment should already be over!
If you’re still nervous about your next visit, please contact our team at Ellicott Mills Dental. We specialize in working with people who suffer from dental anxiety. As you transition from one office to another and resume a healthier dental routine, we want to hear your questions, concerns, and recent feedback. If there’s anything more we can do to help you overcome this condition, please let us know!