Odontophobia, better known as fear of the dentist, is very common. It can be hard to commit to improving your oral health when you are experiencing stress and anxiety at the mere thought of visiting the dentist. However, it is still very important to see your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings because your oral health is closely linked to your overall health. Here are four strategies for coping with your fear of the dentist.
Create a soothing playlist or listen to an audiobook.
Understanding what triggers your anxiety can help you manage those factors during your dental appointment. If the sounds associated with a dental visit, such as the whooshing of water or the whir of the cleaning tools, are what set off your anxiety, then you can make a plan to block out those sounds. Create a soothing playlist or listen to an audiobook to engage your mind. You may also decide to completely block out sound by bringing noise cancelling headphones or earplugs to your visit.
Use dark glasses or a sleep mask to block out the sights.
Similarly, you may be uncomfortable with the bright lights over the patient chair or the sight of your dentist. You can manage this by wearing dark glasses or a sleep mask to block out the sights that make you feel stressed out about your appointment. Closing your eyes and practicing deep breathing at the same time may also help you to relax.
Schedule your appointment for a quieter time in the office.
You might find it helpful to schedule your appointment for a quieter time in the office so that your dentist can take your appointment slowly in order to manage your stressful moments. Ask your dentist's staff about the quietest times in the office, such as late morning, and make your appointments when there are not as many patients in the office. This allows you to work with your dentist at a pace that you are comfortable with.
Use sedation dentistry to completely eliminate your stress.
Your phobia of the dentist may be too difficult to overcome alone. One option you can turn to is sedation dentistry. Medicine is administered either orally, with gas that is breathed in, or through an IV, depending on the level of sedation that is appropriate to manage your stress. Your dentist is then able to clean your teeth and examine your mouth, and you are able to relax throughout the appointment. Note that you should ask a friend or family member to help you with transportation to and from your appointment if you are using sedation dentistry.