Dental fear is numbered a second reason why people avoid dental treatment. At the same time, avoiding visiting your dentist is not a recommended strategy and you know it. In the previous blog post I talked about our anesthesia system that does help with dental anxieties. But I also want you to have coping skills that you can use to manage your dental fears on your own. Let’s refer to psychology and common sense.
Your dentist is on your side. We genuinely want to help. In fact, it is our job to help you with your oral health and related problem. It is important for you to share your anxieties, to mention specifically what you are afraid of, what you like and what you don’t like. Together, we can make your experience more comfortable and even pleasurable (I hope). If you need a lot of explanations and details to feel more confident, ask for them! We will go over every aspect of treatment. If, on the other hand, much explanation makes you feel like a child, be sure to mention this as well. Let’s say you had a really bad experience in the past and now are dreading that moment. Please share your fears. Quite likely, we will be able to use alternative approach or technique so you are not reminded of your prior bad experience.
Ask for shorter appointments
While we are happy to do as much treatment in one appointment as possible to save you time and reduce the number of visits, sometimes baby steps are the right approach. Thirty minutes sound more bearable that one hour and thirty minutes. Agree?
Agree on a signal
To feel confident and comfortable, you need to feel that you are in control of the situation. That your desire to pause will be honored. We, dentists, are not mind-readers unfortunately. While I always try to pay close attention to every aspect of the patient’s behavior, even a slightest flinch, I still can miss some when my focus is on your teeth. It is better to make a clear agreement beforehand. Like raising your hand to indicate that you need a break.
Find a distraction
Bring your headphones and listen to the music or audiobook. Play with a soft stress ball or a toy to occupy your hands. Any distraction will work as long as you are focusing on something other than your fears.
Breathe, relax, and meditate
Deep breathing brings oxygen to your body. It helps relaxing muscles and slowing down your heart rate. It also changes your focus to your breathing and away from your fears. I believe it was Dan Siegel in his book “The Whole-Brain Child” that gave the following advice: Imagine yourself at the center of a wheel. All your thoughts and ideas are scattered on the rim of the wheel. Right now you are focusing on your fears. But it is in your hands to turn the wheel (remember, you are at its center) and start focusing on other thoughts. Your today’s schedule, for example.
To summarize, your dental visit can and should be comfortable. It is our cooperative effort to make it as pleasurable as possible. And you are a very important player on that team.