Experts aren’t sure exactly how many people have dental anxiety or fear, but put the number somewhere between 9% and 20%. In fact, some people have such a deep fear of the dentist, they simply don’t go — which leads to worse problems, eventually requiring more invasive procedures.
The dentists and staff at Santa Monica Bay Dental know how many people have dental anxiety. We want to help you feel as comfortable as possible during your visit, whether it’s a specific procedure you’re worried about or you simply feel general anxiety about coming to our office.
In this post, we offer some specific suggestions that may help you cope with and even overcome your anxiety.
Please tell us!
One of the most important things you can do if you have dental anxiety is to let us know how you’re feeling. First, it helps us know that you may need some special accommodations. Secondly, it helps you to feel better. Getting your fear out into the world relieves the stress of carrying it around.
Let us know if you’ve had a bad experience in the past, or if you have a fear of needles, or anything else you can think of. Ask questions if you have them. Sometimes, the fear is more about not knowing what to expect than about something specific.
We’re also happy to make suggestions that may be helpful. Many of our patients have dental anxiety, and over time, we’ve collected some helpful strategies.
Consider a distraction
In many instances, doing something to take your mind off of your worries can be helpful. You may find wearing headphones to listen to music or a podcast helpful.
It may also be helpful to have something to occupy your hands. A fidget spinner, stress ball, or other small item that fits in your hands might help.
Imagining a relaxing place, especially one you know well enough to visualize many details, can be a useful technique. You can even practice imagining it before your appointment.
Create a signal
Before your procedure, we can agree on a signal for you to tell us when you need a break. For example, you can tell us that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re going to raise your left hand. When you do, we’ll stop until you’re ready to go on.
You can also show us a signal that tells us you’re doing OK, like a thumbs up. We can practice both signals before the procedure begins so that you feel confident using them.
You may want to know exactly what’s happening and what to expect — or you might not want that at all. Let us know your preference.
Some people find that a weighted blanket or comfort item like a stuffed animal helps. Bring what you need to your appointment.
Having your eyes open or having them closed can help. You may want to try both and see if either feels better or worse.
Another useful relaxation technique is to pay attention to your breathing. Inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count 12, or whatever variation you prefer. The counting serves as a distraction, and the slow breathing helps your body relax.
We want your visit to be comfortable and your procedure to go as smoothly as possible. Communicate with us, and we will accommodate your needs. Don’t avoid dental care due to fear. Schedule your appointment today at our office in Santa Monica, California, even if you just want to visit and discuss your concerns.