For nearly 40 million Americans (roughly 15% of the population!) dental anxiety is the real deal. But while a little apprehension is totally normal, we don’t want it to come between you and your oral health. If you find yourself avoiding everything from routine exams to dental procedures, Dr. Hill has a few suggestions to help you relax during your appointment.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Yes, that’s easier said than done if you’re worried about your visit, but try to go to bed at a reasonable time, so you’re feeling refreshed in the morning.
Schedule your appointment for a ‘low stress’ time of day. If you know you’ll be worrying about your procedure or cleaning all day at work and then have to sit through traffic to get here you’re already going to be stressed when you arrive. If you can manage it, try to schedule your appointment after the morning traffic rush. If you’re not a morning person, schedule your appointment later in the day. You know what time you feel your personal best. Aim for that time when picking your appointment time.
Make a day of it! If you can get the whole day off, do it. This way, you won’t be worrying about getting to work late or returning to the office with a partially numb face. Even if you’re just there for a cleaning, you can relax knowing that when you leave your appointment, you can go home and relax.
Leave the kids at home! If you’re concerned about what your kids are doing, or they’re trying to get your attention during your visit, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to relax truly. A dentist visit is a great guilt-free excuse to leave them with a sitter.
Turn off your ringer (and the vibrate function, too!). If you keep hearing your phone beep and buzz during your procedure, it could make you anxious that you can’t get to it. Let yourself disconnect for an hour or two. Trust us; your boss will still be there when you’re done. Allow yourself to focus on your health and well-being without the guilt.
Focus on your breathing. We know it’s not easy to do this with dental appliances in your mouth, but there’s a lot to be said for taking deep, cleansing breaths. Try to breathe from your chest and focus on just inhaling and exhaling.
Bring headphones. If you have some relaxing music you’d like to play, put it on a low volume (so you can still hear instructions from the staff). You can even make a playlist of relaxing music before your visit, so it’s ready to go when you get in the chair. Just remember if you’re listening on a smart device, try to tune out the notifications from your other apps!
Put on calming lotion. There have been several small studies that support the idea that the smell of lavender aids in relaxation. Put on some lavender hand cream before your procedure and see if it helps. Worst case scenario, it does nothing but soften your hands!
Bring a comfort object. No, not your old baby blanket- but something small that you can hold in your hand and focus on during your procedure, like a smooth stone, putty, or a stress ball.
If none of those things help, there are still options. Dr. Hill’s office offers nitrous oxide to patients who need a little extra help relaxing. One of the benefits of nitrous oxide is that it has no lasting effects- so as soon as we turn off the nitrous, you can drive yourself home. Dr. Hill’s staff can check with your insurance to see if nitrous oxide is covered by your policy and if not we make it an affordable option. If you don’t find that nitrous oxide is sufficient enough to manage your anxiety, Dr. Hill can prescribe a stronger sedative for you prior to your procedure.
Ultimately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to stress reduction. Factors like your age, the level of stress, and the severity of your procedure must be considered before deciding what methods to try. Remember, Dr. Hill cares about your health- that includes both your oral health and your overall well-being. If you’re letting anxiety get in the way of proper oral care, let Dr. Hill know. He can work with you to develop a treatment plan that you feel comfortable with. If you’re ready to take the next step, take a deep breath, and give Dr. Hill a call at 469-640-9550.