6 Tips For Coping With Dental Anxiety

New Year's Resolution: Go to the dentist

If you are like most people, you read that statement and your anxiety level starts to rise. If this is you, there are things that can help. Here are a few suggestions and tips that I give my patients to help calm their nerves before and during an appointment.

  1. Breathe. This may seem obvious, but it isn't when you are in a state of panic. Take slow, deep breaths and focus on your breathing. When your mind is on breathing, it isn't on your appointment. Sometimes it helps to visualize yourself in a "happy place." That happy place may be sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere, or surrounded by family and friends in front of your grandma's fireplace. Wherever and whatever it is for you, we encourage the daydream while you are in your appointment.
  2. Know what sets you off. It may be the sound of the drill or just the feeling of dental instruments on your teeth. Talk about it with your dentist whatever it might be. There may be things he or she can do to ease your anxiety while doing those things, or they may be able to avoid those certain things altogether. 
  3. Bring headphones with music. This helps in a few ways: it can be a distraction from what is going on as well as drown out sounds that may be unpleasant and cause anxiety.
  4. Have a supporting cast. Bring a friend or companion to your appointment for moral support. It's like going to the gym, you are more likely to go if you have someone to go with. 
  5. "Laughing gas," or Nitrous Oxide is available at a lot of dental offices for an additional charge. If you just need the edge taken off, this will do it! Be sure you provide your dentist with an updated medical history and accurate list of medications and allergies to medications before requesting any new medications or Nitrous Oxide.
  6. Valium. For people with more severe dental anxiety, talk with your dentist about prescribing Valium for your appointment. They may prescribe one for the night before your appointment as well as one for the appointment itself. Keep in mind that you will be required to have a driver to and from your appointment if you have been prescribed this or anything similar.
Try these tips and see what works for you. If none of these suggestions help, talk with your dentist. They are very familiar with dealing with people how have dental anxiety and may be able to help with more suggestions to help you feel calm and confident in going to your next dental appointment.
You can do this! 
Happy New Year!

~Cyrus M. Larson, DMD


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