Strategies to Overcome Dental Anxiety

January 31, 2018 | Mint Dental Works

Imagine walking into the dentist office relaxed and confident. You’re sure that there’s a caring team of professionals who’ve created a safe space for you – both medically and psychologically. At Mint, we’re committed to helping our patients feel this way, and we work to make every appointment both easy and comfortable.

Most of us have felt some anxiety about going to the dentist. Maybe you had a bad dental experience in the past, are afraid of needles, anxious about potential pain, or even have misconceptions about treatment. We understand these fears are daunting, but the most important thing is to make sure they don’t stop you from getting the treatment and preventative care you need. To provide all our patients with the best experience possible, we’ve collected some helpful strategies to overcome dental anxiety.

Before You Arrive

  • Find a provider you trust – Knowing you’re about to see a trusted professional can go a long way to quell anxiety. A good dentist will encourage open communication and talk through your fears about treatment. Our dentists will address your concerns, explain the steps of each procedure, and patiently cover treatment options.
  • Book your appointment early in the morning – This will create less time during the day for you to dwell on your fears.
  • Guided imagery – By focusing all your senses on a pleasant experience, guided imagery is a tested technique for soothing distress and anxiety symptoms. Customized and vivid, it combines relaxation, visualization, and positive suggestions to help people mentally “escape” to places like the beach, forest glen, or crystalline mountains. There are a plethora of great, free guided imagery recordings online that are worth exploring.

In Our Office

Sensory distractions are a great way to alleviate anxiety. At Mint, we encourage a range of options to help promote calm.

  • Music – Research shows that listening to music has beneficial effects on the human body. Music can ease your nerves during a procedure, manage anxiety and reduce pain (it actually activates sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways!). Music also masks other sounds, which is helpful for people who are triggered by the sound of drills or other dental equipment. As music is a personal preference, we suggest bringing an iPod or mp3 with your own playlist designed to soothe while having work done.
  • Movies – We know another wonderful form of distraction is watching a program, so we offer Netflix in our offices. You can select movies or TV shows to help keep you mind occupied during treatment.
  • Aromatherapy – Known for its relaxing properties, lavender is proven to lower stress. We offer warm lavender neck wraps to help anxiety melt away. Studies also show that lavender may reduce the perception of pain in children and adults. In addition, our fresh air exchange system helps to eliminate the typical dental-office smells that can trigger anxiety.
  • Breathing and meditation techniques – Deep breathing can greatly relax the mind and decrease pain. Meditation tames stress by balancing your heart rate and breathing. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins University determined that the most effective use for meditation was anxiety relief.

Additional Support

We understand that there are times when you may need some extra options.

  • Nitrous Oxide – A safe form of sedation, nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) can alter your mood to make you feel more relaxed while remaining awake. Nitrous oxide is inhaled through the nose and takes effect in mere minutes. Our dentists can easily adjust the levels and, when the procedure is over, nitrous oxide quickly leaves your system.
  • Sedation – Conscious sedation is a great solution for our patients who really struggle with fear or are undergoing involved surgical procedures.  A combination of medicines, sedation blocks pain and provides deep relaxation. Some patients even fall asleep but will easily awake. Unlike nitrous oxide, you may not recall the details of your visit and will probably experience drowsiness after your procedure.

Anxiety and fears can be managed (or even eliminated) by these various techniques. Our main goal is to protect your physical and emotional wellbeing when you are in our care, so give us a call if you have questions or would like more information!