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Facing Fears

I have a confession. The thought of going to the dentist makes tends to make my blood run cold. I don’t know if it’s due to bad childhood experiences or a vivid imagination. But the sights, smells, and sounds of the dentist office make me want to hide under my bed. But it’s true that the only thing worse than going to the dentist is not going—since small issues can become big ones if left ignored.

I’m happy to report this dental weenie finally recently found a dentist who explains everything they’re about to do and what I’ll likely be feeling. They ask permission to proceed then stop frequently to check how I’m feeling. They’ve also invested in cutting-edge dental technology that eliminates many of my fear triggers. But my dentist still calls me Margaritaville, because I like my nitrous turned all the way up, thank you very much.

Here, my fellow dental chickens, are ten ideas I’ve come across for triumphing over dental anxiety.

TOP 10

  • Look for a dentist who specifically caters to the dentally fearful. Some include that in their advertising. But you can also ask your friends and family what their dentist does to alleviate fear.

  • Because dental anxiety often comes from a feeling of loss of control, look for a dentist who explains things thoroughly, doesn’t act until you give the okay, and makes you an equal partner in your own oral care.

  • Be upfront about your anxiety. It’s not the first time your dentist has heard about dental phobia and you won’t hurt their feelings.

  • Make your dentist aware of the exact things that generate anxiety in you, so they can proceed accordingly.

  • Discuss things like nitrous oxide or oral sedation that can take the edge off your fear.

  • Schedule your appointment first thing in the morning, when you and the dental staff are fresh and relaxed (and you’ll probably spend less time waiting around psyching yourself out).

  • Avoid caffeine and sugary foods before your appointment, which can make you edgier.

  • Agree beforehand on a gesture you can give to signal the dentist to stop working and give you a break.

  • Some people find that wearing a weighted blanket during their dental appointment helps them relax. My dental staff allows me to wear the weighted X-ray vest. It actually helps.

  • Ask your dentist about new technology they may have to reduce injection pain, molds that are done digitally instead of with a mouthful of goop, and lasers that replace scary drills.

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