Several things in life can cause anxiety:
- Public speaking
- Small spaces
- Algebra (you know we are right)
- The virus that must not be named (we will give you a hint, it rhymes with Sherona)
You could probably add to this list of anxieties with your own set of unique scenarios. Triggering anxieties are like fingerprints–we all have them and they are all different. We hope that visiting the dentist is not on your list, but just in case it is, our Weber and Davis County family dentists have compiled some tips to help soothe those fears. That way you can cross the dentist off your list and make room for something that endangers your life, like bungee jumping.
It is perfectly fine to be nervous about the dentist! Your anxiety might range from a mild set of nerves to a crippling sense of panic. Wherever you are in that spectrum, please talk to us about it. The time to calm down anxiety is before it hits, not during. Talk to the dentist about what triggers the anxiety. When does it start? Are there certain sounds that trigger the uneasiness? Just talking about the anxiety can help weaken its power over you. Remember, everyone, deals with anxiety about different things. The dentist is on your side in this one, but it will help if everyone is on the same page about your experiences.
Know Before You Go
Again, the time to deal with anxious feelings is before they come. Once the anxiety takes hold, the human brain will go into a protective, reactive mode, and it is incredibly difficult to back up once that starts happening. Thinking ahead and finding strategies to stay calm before the visit will set you up for success.
There are a few tricks to help you keep your brain calm and regular before the “chatter” of anxiety starts. As you are going into the office, pick a color to find. For example, look for as many blue things as you can find. If you start to feel your pulse racing, distract your brain by focusing on finding blue things. Or, you can play the alphabet game. On the drive and in the waiting room, find something that starts with the letter A, then B, and so on.
Our brains will focus on what we tell them. Thinking about being anxious or thinking about how not to be anxious tells your brain to put the anxiety front and center. Having a plan to distract yourself will help your brain stay calm and present so you can be in a good place when it is time to sit in the chair.
Again, so much good work can happen before you get to the dentist. Regular mindfulness practice is a powerful way to deal with all types of anxiety. Your brain is a muscle, and it takes practice to help it learn how to stay calm when facing situations that usually make you feel otherwise. Mindfulness is a method of focusing on the breath and being completely aware of our bodies and all the mental and emotional sensations it experiences. The practice helps us to stay present in the moment and look at our reactions in a calm and measured way. There are lots of wonderful resources out there with guided mindfulness practices, such as this YouTube Channel.
Bring a Friend
Bringing a friend with you to the dentist might be another help. Fun conversation can distract you as you wait and help the time pass during the visit. Don’t try to impress your friend; be honest with them about your anxiety, and let them know how you’d like them to help and support you during the visit.
If music is soothing, then use it! You can create a playlist and tune in before and during the visit. If there is a mindfulness practice that you enjoy, then that might be something especially helpful. It’s a good idea to start the music before you feel the anxiety creeping up. The goal is to stay ahead of it to handle it, rather than try to push it down once it comes up.
Give a Signal
If you communicate with your dentist beforehand, it might be a good idea to come up with a signal that you can give when you need to take a break or start to feel overly anxious. That way the dentist can know without your having to talk with their hands in your mouth! If you only make it halfway through the appointment before the signal, that’s fine! Next time, you’ll make it farther. Be patient with yourself. It is worth taking it slow to deal with the anxiety so you can get the needed dental care.
Regular dental appointments are spaced months apart so when you are scheduling you will hopefully be able to pick a day and time that will be the lowest stress for you. Think about your work schedule and when your brain is at its calmest and set up an appointment for that time.
We hope that some of these tips can take the dentist off your list of anxieties! As for spiders and algebra. . . well, you are on your own with those. We just keep your teeth clean.