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Dealing With Dentist Jitters

December 09, 2020

Dealing With Dentist Jitters

The year 2020 has had plenty of anxiety-inducing triggers so far! The last thing we need is more stress, but we might also need a trip to the dentist. If sitting in that chair with the paper bib and bright light makes you nervous, we are here to help! We aren't just interested in getting your teeth white, we want to help you keep them healthy.

Honesty is the best policy

First of all, it is totally normal and fine to get nervous about the dentist! There is no reason to try to hide it from the dentist or tell yourself not to be nervous. The lights, the chair, the poking, it can all be a little intimidating. So, give yourself permission to be nervous and communicate exactly what makes you nervous with your dentist. Ask your dentist if they'd be willing to meet before the actual dental appointment to discuss your anxieties. Is it the lighting? The sounds? The smells? Being open about your fears will help you feel better and give your dentist a heads up on how to make things go better for you.

Stay Ahead of It

The time to deal with anxious feelings is before they come. Once anxiety gets a grip, our brains switch into protective mode, and it is quite a challenge to calm down once that happens. Thinking ahead and finding strategies to stay calm before the visit will set you up for success. Think about the triggers, and have a plan in place. It can be as simple as counting back from 100 or distracting yourself by finding as many blue things in the waiting room as possible, or counting how many things begin with the letter T. These seem like silly games, but they keep the brain focused on something else besides the anxiety so that you can think rationally when you head back for your appointment.

Practice Makes Perfect

The brain is a muscle and it takes practice to help it learn how to stay calm in moments of anxiety. Mindfulness is a way to practice staying present, focused, and calm. Regularly practicing before your appointment will train your brain and body to stay in a calm state. Make sure you are breathing regularly and focusing on the sensations of the moment and not the fears that can send your brain into a frenzy. This website has some great ways to start incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine.

Give a Sign

When you communicate with your dentist beforehand, you might discuss a simple hand signal that you can give when you need a break or start to feel the anxiety creeping in. This can help you feel confident that you are in control and can take a break if needed. And, you don't have to worry about trying to talk to the dentist when they have their hands in your mouth! Just knowing that you can pause the appointment whenever you need it is a dose of control that can be very calming.

Plan for the Future

Regular dental appointments are spaced months apart. When you are scheduling, you should be able to pick a day and time that will give you the best shot at being well-rested and unstressed.

What About Sedation?

All these ideas can go a long way to lower anxiety, but if you still feel tense after trying these tips, then it might be worth exploring sedation dentistry. This involves medical interventions that will calm you or help you sleep as you have your dentist visit. There are a few types of sedation used in dentistry:

  • Inhalation - This is the "laughing gas" method and involves your breathing in nitrous oxide and oxygen. The dentist can change the level of the gas, depending on how much calming you need. It helps you to relax and wears off quickly. This method means you can generally still drive home on your own safely, after the appointment.
  • Oral - This method also has varying levels of sedation. It is a prescription pill that you will take about an hour before the procedure. It will make you very sleepy and relaxed, so it would be a good idea to have someone on hand to drive you to the appointment!
  • IV - This method involves a needle, which means it might trigger some anxiety all on its own, but if you aren't bothered by needles, then this approach can work. This method of sedation will work very quickly and the dentist can adjust it in the appointment, based on how much sedation is needed.

With all these methods, you will want to communicate clearly with the dentist how much sedation you want and make sure you understand the process and effects. There is also the option of general anesthesia if you would prefer to be asleep throughout the procedure. Each appointment will be different. You might only need mild sedation for regular check-ups, and you can save the heavy hitters for any more serious procedures.

Stay Calm. . . .and Go to the Dentist

It is normal to have some anxiety about dental procedures, but that doesn't mean that you have to avoid the dentist. There are tools you can use before you go and methods the dentists can use while you are there. Take a breath, ask for help, and figure out what works for you.

And if you’re contemplating teeth whitening, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t have to go to the dentist to get the results you want. Our at-home teeth whitening kits work like professional treatments but are safe and convenient enough to be administered in the comfort of your home. Great results, more convenient, less costly. Contact us at (530) 285-5559 to learn more.