Professional checkups and cleanings make a huge difference in maintaining a healthy smile. Unfortunately, dental anxiety can prevent people from visiting the dentist regularly. If this describes you, you’re not alone. In America, up to 20 percent of adults avoid the dentist due to dental anxiety.1
Luckily, you can reduce your dental anxiety with research, planning and relaxation tools. For the sake of your smile, take a look at our tips to help overcome your anxiety today.
You’ll likely have your phone with you at your next dentist appointment, so why not plug in your headphones and listen to something soothing? A relaxing track or enjoyable song can reduce anxiety by giving you something else to focus on.2 If you’re looking to engage your mind even further, consider downloading a podcast, audio book or comedy routine for your appointment. Kids with dental anxiety may benefit from listening to their favorite movie soundtrack or music playlist.
Take the weight off your mind and escape negative thoughts by giving your hands something to do. Bring a fidget spinner, stress ball or anything else that you can move around in your hands.3 Even a paper clip or hair tie will work. Bringing a stuffed animal to the dentist’s office can be extra comforting for a child.4
According to a study from the Journal of Neuroscience, a lack of sleep can increase anxiety, specifically related to anticipation of future events.5 Make sure to get a decent night’s sleep to help squash anxiety and feel well-rested for your appointment. Additionally, you can help tame anxiety by eating a healthy snack or meal before your visit.6 To eliminate the unnerving feeling of dry mouth that anxiety can cause, bring a water bottle with you to the appointment.7
Try deep breathing by counting to five as you inhale through your nose and then counting to five as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat several times until you feel more relaxed. Another technique is progressive relaxation. Start at either your head or your toes and consciously relax each muscle one after the other.8
Avoidance is often used as a coping mechanism, but in the long run, it can make problems worse by giving anxiety more time to fester and grow.9 Sometimes the hardest step is scheduling the visit. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll likely be more comfortable at the dentist with continued exposure. Similarly, getting kids to the dentist early gives them an opportunity to become familiar with the environment before they have time to develop dental anxiety.10
Find a dentist who specializes in making patients feel calm or a pediatric dentist who knows how to handle anxious children. Some dentists provide distractions like playing music or access to television during visits. Once you choose a dentist, have a discussion about what they might be able to do to assist in reducing anxiety.
If you have availability in your schedule, make plans to do something fun after your or your child’s appointment. That’ll not only provide something to look forward to during the exam,11 but it’s also a great way to reward you or your child for taking a smart step towards lifelong oral health.
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* All TruAssure dental plans, other than Basic and Preferred dental plans, are offered in association with the DenteMax Plus dental network arrangement, which includes participating dentists from the DenteMax, United Concordia and Connection dental networks. TruAssure Basic and Preferred dental plans for both group and individual members are offered in association with the DenteMax dental network.
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