Research from DentaVox found that up to 61 percent of people suffer from some form of dental anxiety. Participants in the study mentioned pain, odors, and being stuck in an uncomfortable position as the top reasons for their anxiety.

Many of these worries are understandable. No one wants to experience pain or discomfort. Nonetheless, when people skip their dental visits, the results can be ugly. Regular dental care is a key factor in a healthy lifestyle. Skipping cleanings can result in the development of cavities and gum disease.

1. Find the Right Dentist

The process begins with finding a dentist you can trust. Let friends and family know you’re looking for a dentist. Read online reviews for various dentists in your area. You might be able to find reviews from others who suffer from anxiety.

You can also look for a dentist who specializes in caring for patients with anxiety. This is what’s known as “compassionate dentistry.” These dentists focus on the patient’s comfort. Some offices offer relaxing environments with calming lighting and soft music.

Sedation dentistry is another option to consider. Some dentists use nitrous oxide to keep the patient calm. Severe anxiety may require the use of oral or IV sedatives.

2. Work Up the Courage

There’s no way around it. A big part of overcoming dental anxiety involves working up the courage to face it. For some, the anxiety can be so extreme that even calling the office to make an appointment is challenging. Please know that you can do it. Take a deep breath, make the appointment, and then congratulate yourself for having taken the first step.

3. Be Open

Don’t be afraid to tell the dentist, hygienist, or even the office workers that you’re suffering from anxiety. They can’t go above and beyond to help if they’re unaware there’s a problem. Letting them know you’re struggling will ensure they can do their best to make the process easy on you.

Since you won’t be able to speak much during the procedure, you may want to ask your dentist or hygienist if you can agree on a signal that means “stop.” Raising a hand or tapping the dentist on the arm works well. This way, if the sounds, smells, or feelings become too intense, you’ll be able to take a quick break.

4. Practice Relaxation

Deep breathing can help us get through a variety of tough situations. During a dental appointment, you won’t have anything else to do but sit back, close your eyes, and breathe.

Perhaps you don’t have enough focus to meditate and breathe your way through the appointment. If that’s the case, consider a different method of relaxation, such as listening to music or a podcast on your phone. Not only will it distract you from the procedure, but it will also pass the time.

5. Consider the Consequences

We all want to avoid pain, but ditching the dentist will only cause more pain the long run. If you don’t get your basic cleanings, you’ll eventually need a procedure called “root planing and scaling,” which is more difficult to endure. Likewise, you could have to face root canals, fillings, dental surgery, and other procedures.

If you avoid dental care all together, you will lose your teeth. It might not happen in a year, but it will happen at some point. Visiting the dentist can be a little unnerving, but it’s always worth it in the end.

6. Reward Yourself

Overcoming dental anxiety is a huge accomplishment. Plan something special for yourself after you complete the challenge. A nice weekend trip makes a great reward. You’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself without worries about the dentist hanging over you.

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