I don’t know of anyone excited about getting dental work done. Many of us find some reason to put off our checkups and dental needs. For those who get sweaty palms just thinking about the dentist, a severe toothache or dental emergency can be the catapulting event that lands you in the dentist’s chair. If you’ve been avoiding the dentist for years, or every visit is just a test, what can you do to reduce your dental fears?
Some of us recall seeing comedy scenes on television that showed a very old, nearly blind dentist pulling out a tooth with a pair of tweezers, while the patient muttered “you have the wrong tooth.” Although these scenes were fun, some of us still have that crazy image implanted in our brains. The reality is that modern dentistry has made great strides in technology and adaptation to the patient. Some of the stress-reducing things that patients can now find in many offices are:
* upbeat music (not elevator music)
* TV screen that allows you to watch TV with your choice of programming
* Computerized rotating slides of scenic images such as water, mountains, etc.
* sunglasses, supplied by the dentist, to protect your eyes from the light of the procedure
* nitrous oxide / oxygen (check with your dentist; this is a mild sedative given to very anxious patients)
* detailed communication between doctor and patient about procedures and technique
The items above are fine and stylish once you are actually sitting in the dentist’s chair. What can you personally do to reduce your anxiety before the appointment? Here are some of the things I have done to help me keep my dental appointments:
1. Pick an appointment (unless it is an emergency) for that part of the day when you are most relaxed. For me it is morning.
2. When you make your appointment, contact the dental office you are anxious about. Dentists want and need to know your anxiety level. They will discuss the ways in which they address different levels of stress with their patients.
3. Get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep can make you irritable. Being irritable will increase your anxiety level.
4. Listen to relaxing music on the way to the dentist. I play a CD with spa tunes. It really helps.
5. Don’t get to the dentist’s office too early. Too long can result in you mentally kicking your already unfounded fears. Be on time and not late.
6. Spray natural flower essences, Bach Rescue Remedy Spray, in your mouth to reduce anxiety. Do this on the way to the dentist and just before the dentist begins your procedure. This was the number one reason I went through my recent root canal procedure.
7. Use your headphones with your own iPod during the procedure (if allowed by the dentist).
8. Bring your own sunglasses to wear if the dentist does not provide you with a pair.
9. Pray for courage and the ability to relax (if you are a spiritual person).
10. For final clarity, ask the dentist what is going to be done and how long it will take; agree to use hand signals in case you need to alert the dentist to stop.
In combination, the tips above will help reduce your dental fear. However, my favorite tip is the Bach Rescue Remedy spray. It calmed me down long enough to sit through an entire root canal procedure. For me, that was an achievement. You don’t need to cancel your next deep cleaning, that root canal you’ve been putting off, or the chipped tooth that needs to be repaired. So go ahead, make your next dental appointment anxiety-free, and say goodbye to the tooth fairy forever.