A wall sconce in the hallway of our dental practice

How to Deal With Dental Anxiety

At Kingston Dental, we understand that visiting the dentist can make you feel anxious and fearful.  We know that it’s not fun.  But we also know that the entire team of dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants at our practice do their very best to make sure that your visit is pain free and comfortable.

So, let’s talk about some of the relaxation techniques you can practice before and during your dental visits.  Dental anxiety is a common fear that can affect anyone, but there are several techniques that can help you feel more at ease before and during your dental appointment.

Here are a few tips you can use before your appointment:

Schedule your appointment for a time when you won't be rushed. This will give you a chance to relax and prepare for your visit. This also means you must plan ahead to be sure you haven’t scheduled other appointments or errands right before or right after your dental visit. This will also help you feel less stressed and under less pressure.

Being well-rested will help you feel calmer and more centered.  So, get a good night’s sleep before your appointment.  Avoid alcohol the night before and eat a good meal with plenty of protein and vegetables.

On the day of your appointment, eat a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals or pastries that can make you feel more anxious.  Instead, choose nutritious foods that will sustain your energy.  Eggs and bacon, oatmeal, granola, fruit, and yogurt.  Avoid sweet drinks too.

You can also practice one of the many kinds of relaxation techniques to help you reduce your anxiety.  Deep breathing, for example, is one of the most simple but effective ways to relax your body and mind.  When you feel anxious, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode, which results in an increased heart rate and shorter, more shallow breaths.  

Deep breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and it deepens your breath, filling your lungs with more air. Just these two things alone can help to calm your nerves and reduce your anxiety.  And it has an almost immediate effect.  

To do deep breathing exercises, sit or lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and hold it for a count of five. Then, slowly exhale all the air in your lungs through your mouth for another count of five.

Repeat this process several times until you feel your body relaxing.  Deep breathing is a simple but effective way to calm your nerves by taking in and releasing oxygen. Take slow, deep breaths in and out, and focus on the sensations in your body.

Listening to calming music can also help to soothe your nerves and create more relaxing surroundings.  Pick music to play in your car on the way to your appointment.  Choose a selection of music that has a gentle tempo.  Most dentists’ offices play calming music just for this purpose.

Aromatherapy is another relaxation technique that can help to relax your mind and de-stress body before a dental appointment.  Using essential oils, such as lavender, sandalwood, or chamomile to promote a sense of well-being and calm, is a great way to help you release your anxiety.  

You can take a hot bath infused with lavender or sandalwood oil before you leave for your appointment.  Or apply lavender oil on your pulse points, such as your temples, neck, behind your ears, on your chest, inside your elbows, on your wrists, or on the back of your knees.  You can also rub some lavender oil right under your nose. Drinking chamomile tea prior to your visit can also calm your nerves.

Relations techniques during your appointment:

During your appointment, there are other techniques to de-stress the situation and relax.  We have found that closing your eyes and distracting yourself by visualizing a place that is peaceful and relaxing can bring your heart rate down and calm you very quickly.  

By using visualization, you can imagine yourself in a peaceful, restful, and relaxing place. This can help you take your focus off your anxiety and transport you to a more calming environment.  You can visualize anywhere or anything that takes your mind off of the dental procedure.  

A beautiful sandy beach, a sparkling lake, a deep green forest, a golden field, or anywhere else that brings you a sense of peace.  Once you have a picture in your mind, you can then focus on the details of the scene, such as the smells, sights, sounds, and the sensations.

Visualization is a simple technique that takes your mind to someplace else that is relaxing to you or that brings up pleasant memories.  It is a positive way to get your mind off whatever dental treatment your dentist is performing.

Some of our patients count off lists of all the rock concerts they’ve been too, or the cities they’ve walked around in Europe, or the number of U.S. states they’ve visited.  Some count the football games they’ve been to.  It doesn’t matter what you visualize, as long as it brings you peace.

You can also distract yourself by bringing headphones to listen to music, or a recorded book, or podcast.  Some of our patients listen to guided meditation. This requires you to listen to a calming voice either on your headphones, your tablet, or cellphone that guides you through a series of relaxation exercises.  

There are many dozens of different guided meditations available online and in various downloadable apps. You can search for one that focuses on relaxation, stress reduction, or anxiety management.  You can even specifically search for some that address “dental anxiety”. These meditations are a very helpful way to focus your mind and body on relaxing and letting go of anxious thoughts both before and during dental procedures.  

Remember, it is important to find relaxation techniques that work just for you. Some people may find that one technique is more effective than others. Experiment with different techniques until you find what helps you the best.

You are not alone when it comes to feeling anxious.  Many people experience dental anxiety.  But there are many methods you can use to manage it. You just have to find the right technique that works for you and then practice it regularly.

Talk to your dental team. If you start to feel anxious during a dental procedure, let the team know.  They can adjust their technique or offer words of encouragement to help you feel more comfortable, or they can tell you how much longer the procedure will take.  They can even give you more Novocain if you’re in pain.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for a break.  If you’re anxious, tense, or feeling pain, ask the team if you can stand up and walk around for a few minutes.  Use the restroom.  Splash water on your face.  Practice deep breathing.  We promise.  This too shall pass.

At Kingston Dental, our entire team of dentists, dental hygienists, and support staff recognize that your oral health is vitally important.  Your mouth is where bacteria from your teeth and gums can quickly enter your bloodstream and have a dramatic impact on your overall health and well-being.

Oral health care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Oral health problems, such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer, can be linked to a number of systemic diseases.  But by maintaining good oral health, you can reduce your risk of developing these diseases and improve your overall quality of life.

At Kingston Dental Care, we not only want to make sure your teeth stay healthy, function properly, and look great no matter how young or how old you may be, but we also want you to keep your overall health and to be free from anxiety during any dental procedures.  

Our patients and their families are our number one priority.  Our highly professional and efficient dentists, dental assistants, and hygienic staff provide quality, comprehensive dental care so that we can serve the dental needs of all our community.  And that means managing your pain and anxiety as well.  We never lose sight of our #1 goal: Patients always come first.

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