Easing Anxiety in the Dental Office

Most people experience some level of anxiety at some point in their lives. It can be brought on by a test in school you have coming up, anxiously waiting on an event, or even brought on from an upcoming doctor’s appointment.  However, when a person feels a disproportionate level of anxiety, it might become a medical disorder. Anxiety is defined as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, having worried thoughts and physical changes that increase blood pressure. Daily stress and anxiety can manifest itself in teeth during the day, but mostly at night through clenching or grinding. Both ways can be very damaging to the teeth.

Symptoms of anxiety:

Anxiety can present itself differently from person to person. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of attention or concentration
  • Increased heart rate
  • A feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nervousness
  • Impatience
  • Insomnia

Which often lead to:

  • Pain in the jaw or teeth
  • Grinding the teeth when awake or asleep
  • Clenching the teeth without knowing
  • Holding the jaw forward or to the side in support
  • Biting objects for extended periods of time or chewing due to bad habits

There are many ways to help manage anxiety, especially when it comes to the dental office. First, it is always important to let the doctor know if you are experiencing any levels of anxiety. This will help the dental staff accommodate your needs. If you were to delay, or just don’t go, you are putting yourself at higher risk of developing dental problems that could possibly make the future dental visits much worse. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis can prevent major dental issues from happening. Here are a couple strategies for your next visit to keep in mind if you are experiencing some anxiety:

Speak up: -Telling the doctor and staff up front what you are nervous about, will better help prepare the staff as well as making the best accommodations for your needs.
-Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing and having a better understanding of what is going to happen helps to ease any unwanted feelings.

Distract yourself: -Taking your mind off the appointment when work is being done, might seem like an impossible task, however distracting yourself is also helpful.
-Wear headphones. The sound of your own music can not only help tone out the noise of the drilling but can also help you relax and concentrate on the lyrics and sound of the music playing.
-Occupy your hands. Bring something small to hold onto during the appointment like a stress ball to hold or play with.

Mindfulness techniques: Relaxing the mind is best during appointments
-Count your breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly, counting while doing so. This helps to relax and distract your mind.

Managing your dental anxiety will take several self-help techniques to better your experience in the dental chair. Talking to your dentist and explaining what makes you nervous and what works best for you as an individual will help better set up your future dental appointments with ease and relaxation. Your doctor will do a thorough review of your medical history along with any changes and new medications to make safe recommendations. Always remember to maintain regular dental visits, even if not in pain, to keep track of your oral health and help prevent any major dental issues from happening.