I don’t know anybody thrilled about getting dental work done. Many of us find any reason we can to postpone our dental checkups and dental needs. For those who get sweaty palms just thinking about the dentist, a severe toothache or dental emergency may be the catapulting event that gets you into the dentist’s chair. If you have been avoiding the dentist for years, or each visit is just an ordeal, what can you do to reduce your dental fears?
Some of us remember watching comedy skits on TV depicting a very old almost blind dentist pulling out a tooth with a pair of pliers–while the patient is mumbling “you got the wrong tooth.” Although these scenes were funny, some of us have that crazy image still implanted into our brain. Reality is that modern dentistry has made leaps and bounds in technology and in accommodating the patient. Some of the stress-reducing things patients can now find in many offices are:
* upbeat music (not elevator-style music)
* television screen that allows you to watch TV with your choice of programming
* computerized revolving slides of scenic pictures such as water, mountains, etc.
* sunglasses, supplied by dentist, to protect your eyes from the procedural light
* 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 above items are fine and dandy once you’re actually sitting in the dentist’s chair. What can you personally do though to reduce your anxiety before the appointment? Here are some 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 in which you are the most relaxed. For me it is the morning.
2. When making your appointment communicate with the dental office that you are anxious. Dentists want and need to know your level of anxiety. They will discuss the ways in which they address the various stress levels with their patients.
3. Get a good night’s rest. Not enough sleep may cause you to be 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-like melodies. It really helps.
5. Don’t arrive too early at the dentist office. Too much time might result in your mentally kicking around your already unfounded fears. Be prompt and not late.
6. Spray natural essences of flowers, Bach Rescue Remedy Spray, into your mouth to reduce anxiety. Do this on your way to the dentist and just before the dentist starts your procedure. This was the number one reason I got through my recent root canal procedure.
7. Use your earphones with your own iPod during the procedure (if the dentist will permit it).
8. Bring your own sunglasses to wear if the dentist does not supply a pair.
9. Pray for courage and ability to relax (if you are a spiritual person).
10. For final clarity, ask the dentist what is going to be done and the length of time involved; agree on the use of hand signals should 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 accomplishment. You don’t need to cancel your next deep cleaning, that root canal you have been putting off, or the chipped tooth that needs repaired. So go ahead and make your next dental appointment anxiety-free, and say goodbye to the tooth fairy forever.