Their heart may start pounding as their hands begin to shake. They pick up the phone to make an appointment, but their stomach drops in panic each time they attempt it. It’s a vicious and hard-to-break cycle for people scared of the dentist.

Dental phobia affects so many people around the world. If you have a loved one who falls into this category, you are right to be concerned. When anxiety prevents people from getting proper dental care, it could seriously affect their oral health. Bi-annual dental visits help keep our dental hygiene on track to avoid or reduce the risk of dental diseases and tackle problems before they worsen.

You may have already tried explaining all that to your loved one, but it may not make a difference if their fear overpowers logic. Here are some tips for getting your loved one to visit their Kaysville dentist.

Encourage a Frightened Loved One to Go to the Dentist

(Anna Shvets/Pexels)

1. Try to have Empathy

You probably have some sort of irrational fear of your own. Think about what it takes for you to face it. Putting yourself in the shoes of your frightened loved one will help you approach the topic with empathy and understanding. Be sensitive to the other person’s feelings, just like you’d want someone to be sensitive to yours. Avoid statements that may cause feelings of guilt or embarrassment.

If your loved one has clear signs of poor dental health, consider how you approach it. Do not come right out and tell them their breath smells bad because they never go to the dentist. Instead, start a conversation about the importance of dental health on bad breath without singling them out. For instance, you could share some facts about dental hygiene, such as that skipping out on going to the dentist can increase the risk of gum disease and cavities, causing bad breath. Make your conversation educational instead of personal.

2. Use Gentle Words

Remember to be gentle with your words instead of harsh. Chances are, your loved one is already being harsh with themselves. Most people already know when a fear is irrational, but even irrational fears can paralyze logic. Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation rather than quick yes or no responses. Talking through fear is a great way to move forward. It can even be helpful to show how you relate to their struggles by sharing your own experiences. You can tell stories about positive dental experiences and how going to the dentist always helps you feel more confident about your smile.

3. Help Them Prepare for an Appointment

If you have helped your loved one drum up the courage to make an appointment, good work! Offering a listening ear, encouraging advice, and using empathetic words goes a long way. You may know they’ve made appointments and then backed out in the past. This time can be different with you to help guide them and ensure they go through with the visit. Consider driving them to the appointment and staying by their side so they are not alone. Everybody appreciates a little moral support. You might also want to give suggestions on how to keep calm during the appointment, including:

  • Bringing earbuds to listen to music while they’re in the chair
  • Getting a book to read in the waiting room to distract them from their nerves
  • Bringing an item of comfort, such as a stuffed animal or blanket

4. Suggest Breathing Techniques

Sometimes, waiting in the dental office lobby is the hardest part of the whole appointment. Sitting in anticipation can be challenging. Deep breathing can help produce a calming effect and lower your heart rate. Do some breathing exercises with your loved one. Have them practice taking deep breaths and releasing them slowly while counting to seven. This breathing technique can help put someone at ease and is also an excellent exercise for distraction.

5. Encourage Them to Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine can increase dental anxiety. Encourage your loved one to avoid caffeinated drinks before their appointment. Instead, please encourage them to start the day with a high-protein, healthy meal with plenty of nutrients. A good meal will help them to have a clear mind and a satisfied tummy during the visit. It is also best to stay away from foods high in sugar before any dentist appointment. Sugar can sit on your teeth as well as increase your anxiety, similar to caffeine.

Some people struggle with dental phobia so severely that they need drastic measures such as sedation to be able to complete a dental procedure. Often, someone’s dental fear stems from a traumatic past experience at the dentist. Sometimes, all someone needs is one pleasant experience to help them overcome their fear.

Getting your loved one to a dental appointment can be a challenge. However, after a visit to their Utah dentist, they will be able to find out that there’s nothing to be afraid of.