How to Overcome Dental Fear or Anxiety About the Dentist

For many people, just thinking about seeing the dentist causes us a feeling of unease. Maybe you’re worried because you haven’t been examined in a while and you’re afraid of what the dentist will find. Or maybe you’re worried about the discomfort.

However, delaying your dental exam will only allow whatever dental problems you already have to become worse. You will end up needing more procedures which means spending even more time and money at the dentist’s office and ultimately experiencing more discomfort. Going to your dentist’s office for routine examinations at least every 6 months can actually help make dental care much easier for you on many levels.

How to Overcome Dental Fear or Anxiety About the Dentist

Dr. William Harper and his team in Hampton Roads, VA would like to give you some tips to help you conquer your fear of the dentist’s chair.  These helpful hints can help ease your anxiety so you can attend your next appointment and help your smile stay healthy and strong.

Speak up

Fears tend to seem less powerful when you know that others are aware of your feelings and understand. If you’re feeling anxious about dental treatment, let your dental team know about your concerns. Your dentist and their team can help you better if they know your needs.

  • Talk to your dentist and their team about your anxiety. When you schedule your exam, tell the receptionist that dental care makes you nervous and remind them when you arrive. It may help to share negative experiences you may have had at a dentist’s office in the past, and ask for their suggestions on how to cope.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. One aspect of dental care that can be frightening to some people is not knowing what is going on during the treatment. Asking your dental team to let you know what the next step will be and what is happening can help you manage that fear.
  • Agree on a signal that will let your dentist or hygienist know when you need to take a break during an exam, such as raising your hand.
  • If you feel any pain even with a local anesthetic, tell your dentist. Some patients may feel embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don’t want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure but your dentist never wants you to be uncomfortable.

 Distract yourself

When you’re already nervous, taking your mind off the exam might seem impossible, but there are some things you can do to help distract yourself.

  • Wear headphones. Using headphones to listen to your favorite music or audiobook can block out the sound of the drill which can trigger fear in some people.
  • Keep your hands busy by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object, like a fidget spinner or cube.
  • Use your imagination and picture yourself relaxing at the beach or another “happy place” of your choosing.

Use mindfulness techniques

Relaxation is a state of mind and can be achieved anywhere with a little work. Use deep breathing exercises to relax tension in your muscles and relieve anxiety.

  • Count your breaths. Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same count. Do this at least five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks from treatment while you’re still in the dentist’s chair.
  • Do a body scan. Focus on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. Begin with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, concentrate on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck and down the rest of your body.

Remember: Your dentist and their team are here to help you have a healthier smile; not hurt you or scare you.  Try sharing your fears with your dental team so they can help you overcome them and begin having positive experiences at the dentist’s office instead.

If you’re in the Hampton Roads/Newport News, VA area and are looking for dental care from a team of compassionate and skilled dental professionals, contact the office of Dr. William Harper at 757.414.7227 or schedule an appointment online today.