Don’t Dread the Dentist: Be Proactive To Maintain That Great Smile

Dental phobia — otherwise known as dentophobia or odontophobia — is very real and very common. It makes you queasy about visiting the dentist and causes you to put it off as long as possible. About five percent of people have severe dental fear, according to researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, as reported in The Huffington Post. You can overcome that fear.

The worst problem is that dental anxiety creates a vicious cycle. The longer you delay your dental visits, the more likely it is that real problems can develop. When you have the feeling that you have waited too long, you dread the possibilities of pain – in the mouth and in the wallet – even more and put off the visit even longer.

Choosing the right dental team, asking the right questions and taking the best actions for your mental and dental health will make the process as easy as possible. The American Dental Association has some great suggestions.

First, share your concerns with your dentist and your dental team. Let them know about your anxiety when you make the appointment and when you get to the office. Tell the team about your previous experiences, pain tolerance and other issues. Ask questions and agree on how to let the dentist know you need a breather during an exam or more comfort during a procedure. Communication is the key to a smoother ride and a better outcome.

Try some simple tricks to distract yourself. You might want to wear headphones to listen to your own music or audiobook or the television or show DVD supplied by the dental office. Play with something like a stress ball or fidget spinner.  Imagine your happy place and visualize yourself being at a beach or garden.

Play mind games to relax. Deep breathing exercises can relax muscle tension. While waiting for the appointment or sitting in the dentist’s chair, count your breaths.  Inhale slowly five times and then exhale for the same number. Focus on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time, from head to toe.

Of course, the best strategy is prevention. Practice good dental hygiene habits. Then when you make those regular visits to the dentist, he or she will have much less to do, and you will have much less to fear.

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