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Dental Phobia: Tips for Coping

dental phobias
Do you have a dental phobia?

Many people feel nervous or anxious when it’s time to see the dentist. The reasons are many: Some are afraid of feeling pain, while others don’t like having someone reach into their mouths. Some people might not be able to put a finger on exactly what bothers them, but they find their heart rate picking up and their palms sweating when it’s time for that twice-yearly dental exam. If you’re among a large percentage of patients who get nervous in the dental chair, here are some tips on helping you cope with a dental phobia.

Tell the Dentist and Staff

All dentists are accustomed to helping fearful patients feel more comfortable. You are certainly not along, and you won’t be the first patient that has expressed fear in the office… you might not even be the first patient that day! If you’re really nervous, call ahead and let the staff know. Otherwise, just mention it to the assistant or hygienist who brings you into the room. They will be careful to explain exactly what they’re doing and to go slowly.

Ask for a Break

If you’re having a procedure done and you feel yourself start to get panicked, raise your hand, which seems to be the universal language for telling the dentist that you need a break. Usually, you’ll be able to sit up and get a drink, breathe, or use the restroom if necessary. Just knowing that taking a break is an option is enough for some patients to feel more comfortable.

Use Distraction Methods

Meditation or listening to music are both good ways to distract yourself from the procedure. You can usually wear earbuds or even headphones during most dental work; just double check with the dentist in case that’s not true in your specific situation. In this case, it might be possible to bring your music on a portable CD player and to play it in the exam room.

Ask About Premedication

If you have a severe dental phobia, it’s possible that you will need medication to help you cope with it enough to get through an appointment. There’s no shame in asking the dentist for something to help you relax. A sedative of some type might be just what you need to help you feel more at ease during your procedure. You will need someone to drive you to and from the office, and you’ll need to take the medication at a specific time, so discuss this with your dentist prior to your appointment.

Don’t let your fear and anxiety make you put off necessary dental work; that’s a way to boost your odds that you’ll need a longer or more invasive procedure later. Talk to your dentist about your anxiety and he or she will do the best they can to make you feel physically and emotionally comfortable in the chair.

Creative Commons image by Flavio Spugna.

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