People of any age can suffer from dental fear and anxiety. Almost half of American adults have moderate levels of fear related to the dentist, and about 5-10 percent of them skip dental care as a result.
And yet, skipping the dentist can lead to negative self-esteem, as dental problems such as gum disease and tooth decay can not only impact your appearance, but lead to bad breath and pain as well. Not to mention, since oral health is being increasingly linked to systemic health, neglecting your teeth and gums can lead to other, more drastic consequences. For example, gum disease has been linked to both diabetes and heart disease.
While medication can certainly be helpful (also referred to as sedation dentistry), some professionals don’t consider medication a long-term solution to getting routine dental care, rather just to help patients make it through a specific procedure that may be more involved.
Dental anxiety can be particularly challenging during the COVID-19 epidemic. Patients already understandably have anxiety surrounding the coronavirus, and this can make dental anxiety worse. However, even with the public health crisis going on, you shouldn’t skip routine dental care during this time.
How can you help manage dental anxiety in the age of COVID? Here are our top tips at Saunders DDS!
Communicate With Your Dentist
Letting your dentist in Asheville know upfront about your fear or anxiety surrounding dental care can be immensely helpful. Simply voicing your concerns can be empowering, and more than that, being vocal about your anxiety can help you find the right dentist.
At Saunders DDS, we work with patients of all ages who have anxiety about getting dental work, whether it’s a simple teeth cleaning or a more involved procedure. If you know what specifically bothers you—feeling out of control, being in pain, or needles, let’s talk about how we can make your appointment comfortable and safe for you.
By communicating, we can agree on signals such as holding up your hand to let us know when you need a break, and we can let you know if you can expect any pain during your procedure and when. We can also review every specific action that will happen prior to the procedure to ensure you’re prepared. We do our absolute best to make your appointment as pain-free and stress-free as possible!
Skip the Caffeine
It can feel difficult (ok, maybe impossible) to skip your morning cup of coffee, but trust us when we say that it’ll help you feel less anxious for your dental appointment that day. If you enjoy caffeinated tea or soda, it’s a good idea to skip these beverages before your appointment as well.
Not only has caffeine consumption been linked to anxiety, but patients with existing anxiety disorders appear to have a heightened sensitivity to caffeine. This means consuming even a “normal” amount of caffeine could make you feel more anxious during your dental appointment.
It may be helpful to eliminate caffeine totally in the hours before your appointment or potentially even the day before as well. Instead, you can enjoy herbal tea or water, and be sure to have a healthy meal for breakfast.
Listen to Soothing Music or a Podcast
Your favorite music can help you feel distracted and less focused on what’s going on during your dental procedure. Some people say that listening to new music they’ve never heard before can be particularly distracting. Whether you feel more distracted by an old favorite album or the newest music, go with whatever will be most helpful to you!
Others may not be able to relax with music alone, and may need to try counting (such as counting breaths or ceiling tiles), reading an eBook (if possible during the procedure) or listening to a podcast that you really enjoy.
Focus on Your Breathing
Pay attention to your breathing both while waiting for your appointment and during your procedure. Don’t try to control it, just observe it. Take deep breaths, and rest your hands on your belly so you can feel your stomach rise and fall with each breath. If you find it helpful, you can count your breaths. You can inhale for five breaths, exhale for five breaths, and start again.
Other find it helpful to do what’s called a body scan, during which you relax and check in with every part of your body, taking your time to acknowledge each part. You can start with your toes and work up towards your head, or do the reverse, focusing on releasing tension in each part of your body as you go.
Bring Something to Hold
Both kids and adults can benefit from having something to hold during their dental procedure. It could be a small stuffed animal, a crystal, a stress ball, or favorite object that brings you comfort. You can squeeze the object when experiencing anxiety to help ease your worry and reassure yourself that you are safe.
Consider Your Appointment Time
Coming in for your dental appointment during a high-anxiety time—such as the end of the day when you’re rushing home to take care of the kids, or before another appointment, or when you’re worried about traffic—isn’t going to help you relax. If you suffer from dental anxiety or just generalized anxiety, really consider your appointment time.
Try to make your dental appointment during a time of day when you don’t have much going on and aren’t rushing off anywhere. This will help you relax a little more and allow you to take as many breaks as you need to for us to get through your appointment together!
Do You Experience Dental Anxiety?
Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to dental anxiety. More often than not, a combination of therapies will be the most helpful when it comes to helping you feel more comfortable receiving dental treatment.
But the good news is that people who visit the dentist regularly are less anxious about receiving care—so your hard work will pay off!
All patients tend to have some degree of anxiety around receiving dental care during the COVID epidemic. Rest assured that Drs. Saunders and our staff are making every effort to keep both us and you safe during this time. Find out more by calling us (828) 277-6060, or to discuss your dental anxiety and how we can help you get the care you need during this difficult time!