6 Simple Tips for Managing Dental Anxiety

6 Simple Tips for Managing Dental Anxiety

Everyone wants to have clean, healthy teeth and gums, fresh breath and a great smile. It’s an important indicator of health and hygiene — and has a huge impact on our ability to feel comfortable around others. A healthy smile also gives a person an edge in seeking employment and securing other important opportunities in life.

Unfortunately, many people have a great deal of anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist. It is normal to be nervous about going to the dentist, especially if a difficult procedure is in your near future. Many of our fears have a rational basis, but they can easily become exaggerated in our minds, making it very tempting not to keep our dental appointments.

Both children and adults can have trouble with fears of the dentist. So we’ve put together a few helpful tips that you can use to overcome your dental anxiety, help your children do the same, and get the care you need to maintain a beautiful smile.

Tips for Kids

It can be pretty hard for children to understand why they have to go to the dentist. Here are some easy and effective ways you can help children to get over their fear.

Visit a Family Dentist

Like a family doctor, family dentists work with people of all ages. Taking your child to a family dentist that everyone in your home visits will show them that you are not afraid of the dentist. A family dentist will know several people in the family and will be able to talk to the child in a comforting way about things that she or he is familiar with.

Play Dentist at Home

Another great way to prepare kids for the dentist is to play dentist at home with them. This can be a fun and funny way to normalize the concept of sitting in a chair while the dentist does their work.

Explain Simply Why We Go to the Dentist

Even if it is hard for them to understand, children deserve to know why they need to go to the dentist. If you carefully and simply explain the importance of dental care, they are likely to understand. If your child is not especially squeamish, you may choose to show him or her images of people who have not taken good care of their teeth. In many cases, this will be enough to inspire good oral hygiene habits for life.

Start Visits Early

Possibly the best way to reduce or eliminate a child’s fear of the dentist is to introduce them to an oral care professional’s office early in childhood. This shows the child that visiting the dentist is normal, healthy and that everyone does it. On the other hand, the best way to make a child afraid of the dentist is to take them for the first time late in their childhood only after a painful condition has developed. By that time they will have seen dentists portrayed in scary ways on TV, and they will associate the pain they feel with the dentist. The earlier they start going, the less they will fear the dentist for the rest of their lives.

Tips for Adults

Helping children overcome dental anxiety is one thing. However, if you’re an adult who understands rationally that you need to visit the dentist, but are still too afraid to make and keep your appointments — you’re probably dealing with fears that are very deep-seated. Not to worry: You, too, can work through your dentist-related anxiety, make your appointments, and maintain good oral health and hygiene. Here are a few good ways to begin.

Use Self-Talk

In psychology, therapists sometimes use a method known as cognitive therapy. This is a treatment based on logic and reasoning where the professional will talk with the patient to help her or him work through mental and emotional difficulties intellectually. You can do this with yourself regarding your fear of the dentist. When the fear arises, speak to the fear as if you were a lawyer arguing the case for necessary dental care. Attempt to articulate the case that your fear is making in words. Then come up with the best counter-arguments that you can think of. In many cases, the fear will subside and be reduced significantly when you use this method. This technique is most useful for those who are driven primarily by logic and rationality.

Try Hypnosis or Meditation

Hypnosis is another way to work through fears and anxieties when a more rational appeal is not enough. Both self and guided hypnosis can be effective for those who are more emotionally driven than intellectually driven. Likewise, meditation can have similar beneficial effects. Research has proven that meditation reduces the sensitivity to negative emotions of all kinds, making people more stable, happier and better able to cope with frightening or stressful situations.

Consider Sedation for Children or Adults

If none of the techniques mentioned above are enough to get you or your child into the dentist’s office, you should seriously consider sedation dentistry. If your fears are severe enough, this may be the only way to get a positive result. Sedation dentistry can remove all of the pain and discomfort associated with going to the dentist. It is necessary when oral surgery is needed. But because good dental care is so important for our health, those who cannot overcome their fear — whether they are children or adults — can benefit from sedation.


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