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Tips for Managing Dental Anxiety: Overcoming Fear of the Dentist

Do you dread the thought of having to visit the dentist? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that approximately 36% of people experience dental anxiety and that an additional 12% suffer from extreme dental fear. But no matter how anxious you may feel, it’s still important to regularly attend dental checkups and undergo any necessary treatments to maintain your oral health and overall well-being. Luckily, there are numerous coping strategies available for dental phobia. Here are a few tips for calming your nerves before your next dental visit:

  • Make your visit more comfortable. When you’re scheduling your dental appointment, be sure to let them know that you have dental anxiety and ask whether you can bring anything with you to help calm your nerves. For example, using a weighted blanket and listening to music or an audiobook through headphones might help you feel more relaxed while you’re in the dental chair.
  • Plan a relaxing day. If possible, try to schedule your dental appointment on a day when you don’t have anything else going on. And in the hours prior to your visit, try to avoid anything that could raise your stress levels, such as foods and beverages high in sugar or caffeine. You may also want to try meditating or practicing deep breathing exercises.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. When you arrive for your appointment, remind your dentist that you experience dental anxiety and ask whether you can use a rest signal during treatment. For instance, if you begin to feel uncomfortable during your procedure, you could raise your hand to let your dentist know that you need a break. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions—gaining a better understanding of what your treatment will involve could help you feel more comfortable and less anxious.

Still Feeling Nervous?

If you’ve tried the dental anxiety management techniques described above and you still feel uneasy about visiting the dentist, you may want to consider dental sedation. There are numerous types of sedation dentistry for anxious patients, one of the most common being nitrous oxide sedation (“laughing gas”), which involves breathing in a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen through a nose mask. The gas temporarily alters pain and pleasure receptors, producing a euphoric sensation and calming the patient’s nerves. Another common form of dental sedation is oral conscious sedation, which involves taking medication by mouth prior to having dental work completed. The medication causes grogginess, with some patients even falling asleep in the dental chair.

Fortunately, if you’re in the Greater Merrimack Valley, you can turn to Smiles by Stylos Dental Health & Sleep Center for sedation dentistry. We offer both nitrous oxide sedation and oral conscious sedation, and we can recommend the option that’s best suited to your needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Chelmsford, Massachusetts, dental clinic—we’re open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’ll be happy to arrange a visit at a date and time that’s convenient for you.

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