Putting On a Brave Face at the Dentist

If you follow our blog, or follow via social media, you are well aware that I absolutely hate visiting the dentist and go into full-blown, debilitating anxiety attacks when I need to have work done. Nobody likes visiting the dentist, but if you are particularly afraid of them, here are some tips to quell your anxiety.

Putting On a Brave Face at the Dentist - Life in a House of Testosterone
Image courtesy of Jacques Holst via Flickr

For many people, the mere mention of the word ‘dentist’ is enough to send them right around the bend, quivering in fear under a table or running for the hills like a pet at bath time. (Yup, that would most definitely be ME!) Dentists are scary, we can admit to that. There is something about another person putting sharp metallic objects in your most important orifice which just makes the idea unbearable, but they are important, and everybody has to face up to that at some point.

Sometimes, fears can turn into phobias when they become irrational, and this is commonplace when it comes to going to the dentist; Brisbane sees around 20% of its population avoiding necessary trips to see a specialist, simply because of fear. An estimated 9% to 15% (30 to 40 million) of Americans avoid the dentist because of anxiety and fear, and a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation found 36% of its countrymen stating fear as a main reason for not going to the dentist. 

So if you’re a part of that number, don’t feel too bad, it’s almost perfectly normal. But if you know you have to go see a dentist, but are wondering how to cope with the anxiety, here are some tips to make the whole ordeal a little less frightening.

Keep your visits regular

This will help you in two ways. Firstly, it will get you more used to the idea of sitting in the dentist’s chair. Psychologically this will help you realize that most of your fears are irrational, and that going to the dentist can actually be quite a pleasant experience. If you go to the dentist often enough, it won’t feel like such a big deal when you need to do it. Regular visits also keep your oral health in good order. If you only go to the dentist when something is wrong, then of course it’s likely to be an unpleasant experience. Keeping your teeth and gums in good condition will make your trips to the dentist far less harrowing than you expect they will be.

Communicate with your dentist

A lot of the time, dentist room paranoia comes from the fact that you feel helpless in the chair. You can’t see, feel, or imagine what your specialist is doing and this freaks a lot of people out. Communicating with your dentist through the procedure helps greatly with this. Let him/her tell you exactly what they are doing as they are doing it so that you can mentally prepare for it. Have a predetermined signal ready, so that you can ask your dentist to slow down, or stop when you need them to. You can also download the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale and complete it to take with you on your next visit to the dentist.

Be physically and mentally prepared

Not as easy as it sounds, I know. In terms of what your body needs to cope sufficiently with anxiety, you should make sure you are adequately fed and hydrated when you go in (unless you are undergoing a major operation that requires you to fast). This will ensure that your blood sugar levels can cope with the likely influx of adrenaline caused by the anxiety. If you are self-medicating (which isn’t really suggested) with anti-anxiety tablets, speak first to your dentist to make sure that they don’t complicate the procedure by reacting badly with things like local or general anesthetic.

Mentally preparing yourself is not always easy, but it will help the thing seem far less frightening if you at least try. Talk to people about it; get pleasant dentist stories from them. Search the web for accounts of good experiences to help you feel better. There are obviously a lot of hair-raising stories on the net. You should try to avoid reading these because they will do nothing for your psyche. It’s a bit like researching plane crashes before taking a flight.

Dentist trips don’t have to terrify us, and phobics are fully aware of how irrational they are being, but that rarely ever helps. Preparing your mind and body for the occasion will help. Thankfully, we as humans are easy to convince of things, especially if we are convincing ourselves. So the best thing to do is stay positive in the face of anxiety, because negativity will just whip you up into a neurotic frenzy if you let it.

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  1. Good tips, I definitely have issues with the dentist. I try to mentally prepare but as soon as I walk in and the smell hits me my nerves get ll jangled.

  2. I don’t like to go to the dentist. I have too many crowns and now they are saying they will eventually need replacing. I was under the assumption they were ‘forever’ ha. So much for that idea. I also got my first implant and never want to go through that again! Cleanings are a breeze; I keep my teeth and gums as clean as possible.

  3. I’ve always hated to go to the dentist. I usually go when I have to and now that I don’t have dental insurance I haven’t been as regularly. Hate the sound of a drill. LOL

    • I know what you mean Carolyn. Even with dental insurance, anything outside of routine care can be pretty expensive. That’s something that I have a hard time with as well considering all of the dental work that I need to have done to get my million dollar smile back again!

      • I know. I hate my smile and teeth are stained. Need a tooth pulled and the ones I had filled as a child need filling again. Ugh.

  4. I hate going to the dentists just tremble in fear everytime,thanks fo the tips maybe it will with the next time

    • I do as well Vickie! I am a full scale dentally phobic patient and usually need to have some type of anxiety medication before having any procedure done other than a cleaning and checkup. I’m going to share my results from my upcoming 9/30 appointment here in the comments so stay tuned. I am beginning to think that the fact that I don’t usually eat at all before a dental appointment (severe gag reflex – didn’t want to vomit on anyone) might have been doing more harm than good. So I’ll keep everyone posted on how it works out!

  5. These are excellent tips. I didn’t know why we’d have to fast until I read this post about our sugar levels. The best is going regularly and this way you won’t be going in for major work because of being on top of any problems. Thank you.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    • Only fast if it is for a major operation @carolluciano:disqus. Otherwise, make sure that you’ve had a proper good meal and are well hydrated to counteract the adrenaline production caused by your anxiety. I usually don’t eat anything because I’m afraid I’ll vomit all over everyone (that’s how bad my anxiety levels get) but I’m going to try this. I have a dental appointment on the 30th and have to have three teeth removed. God help me. I can feel the anxiety just thinking about it.

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