Feeling a little bit nervous about going to the dentist is completely normal. In fact, most people will experience some level of nervousness when heading into the office, regardless of what the visit is for. For some, this nervousness can become quite intense. A little bit of discomfort can quickly become an abundance of anxiety that may actually prevent some individuals from pursuing dental treatment or keeping up with regular visits to a dental professional.
For maintaining ideal dental health, it is recommended you visit the dentist every six months for regular dental screenings and teeth cleanings. These visits are an imperative part of the process of maintaining ideal dental health. It is during these visits a dentist will spot the early signs of tooth decay and be able to make minor interventions to prevent the need for any major dental work down the road. However, if anxiety is keeping you away from the dentist, you may only end up visiting the dentist once a tooth ache has made avoiding the dental office impossible. In this scenario, it is far more likely that by the time you actually visit the dentist, you will be in need of more intense dental services than a simple check-up and cleaning. This is why taking steps to overcome dental anxiety is so important.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety refers to the intense, severe experience of nervousness associated with visiting a dentist. This often leads people to neglect ideal dental care for extended periods of time. The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine estimates as many as 40 million Americans avoid the dentist every single year as a result of dental anxiety. In some cases, this anxiety is triggered by a negative experience with a previous dentist. However, in other cases, the intense nervousness is caused by an association of dental visits with pain or discomfort.
Anxiety can manifest in your life surrounding any sort of issue, from work related problems to family disputes. When anxiety becomes focused on something like visiting the dentist, it often feels easier to avoid the stressor than it does to confront the problem. The issue is that the longer you go without dental care, the more damage you may be inflicting upon your poor teeth.
How to Overcoming Dental Anxiety
The first step to dealing with any sort of anxiety is recognizing the anxiety as what it is: nervousness. Once you are able to identify that anxiety may be playing a role in your continued decision to avoid going to the dentist, then you can begin to take the first steps to addressing your anxiety and overcoming that fear.
- Talk about it. If you are avoiding the dentist out of anxiety surrounding the experience, talk about this fear with friends or family members. They can reinforce positivity surrounding your idea of a dental visit by sharing calm and positive experiences of their own.
- Tell your dentist. When you arrive at the dental office, don’t try to hide your anxiety. Tell the dentist you haven’t scheduled an appointment in a long time because you experience a lot of anxiety. Your dentist will have met plenty of others who have experienced anxiety in the dental chair. They can help you have a more positive experience by talking to you through each step of the appointment.
- Avoid caffeine before your appointment. Caffeine makes the heart race, so it should be avoided before you face a situation you know is going to prompt anxiety. Stick to drinking water if possible.
- Choose the most convenient appointment time. If you are going to be anxious about the visit all day, then it may be best to make the appointment first thing in the morning. Select the time for your dental visit when you are least likely to feel rushed to help reduce your anxiety surrounding the visit.
In addition to these helpful strategies, there are plenty of ways you can help naturally reduce anxiety. This includes things like taking long, deliberate, deep breaths and listening to music that can help calm your nerves.
If you’ve been avoiding the dentist for a long time, dental anxiety may be to blame. Take steps to overcome your anxiety and ensure that you are getting optimal dental care by scheduling your next dental appointment with Smile by Shields.