Nobody loves going to the dentist — fear of pain, unfamiliar hands in your mouth, the sound of the drill, and more can all induce dentist-office anxiety. One study found that nearly half of the American population is afraid of going to the dentist.
It doesn’t matter how tough you are, the dentist office is intimidating. But, that’s no excuse to never go. Dentists recommend two checkups a year for regular cleanings, x-rays, and preventative care. With this in mind, how can people reconcile a fear of going to the dentist with the overwhelming need to go? It’s easier than you might think — consider these five ways to get past dentist phobia.
1. Be honest
They say honesty is the best policy, and this is especially true when it comes to dentist visits. This might not feel true, but you will not be the first person to admit to your dentist that you’re a little nervous. Dentists are sympathetic to patients’ feelings, so be upfront and admit that you’re on edge. This way the dentist can take special precautions to relax you and make the procedure as painless as possible.
2. Buddy system
Many people are anxious about dentist visits because the experience is unfamiliar. After all, it’s one thing to go out of your comfort zone, and it’s another to do it while someone inspects the inside of your mouth. Consider bringing a friend along to make the experience more comfortable. People find that mixing the unfamiliar dentist experience with a familiar, friendly face can help offset feelings of discomfort.
3. Just breathe
The results are in: 10 out of 10 dentists say breathing during a procedure is good. Anxious people have a tendency to clam up and hold their breath, which only provokes further nervousness. When you feel panic set in, focus on your breathing — endure the experience one breath at a time and you will make it through more comfortably. Consider it a form of “transcen-dental” meditation.
4. Preventative care
Disclaimer: no amount of preventative care can replace annual dentist visits. However, you can greatly minimize the likelihood of a costly, and lengthy, procedure by practicing good oral health habits year round. Be sure to brush and floss twice a day to remove plaque buildup which will reduce the likelihood of cavities.
5. Finding the right dentist
Let’s get to the root of dentist anxiety: trust. Trust is one of the foundations of a comfortable dental experience, so without it you are unlikely to be able to relax.
Don’t just default to the first dentist option you come across. Shop around, take recommendations, and search online to find the best dentist nearby. There is even a dentist category on Yelp to help you narrow down choices based off patient reviews. If you put some consumer-savvy to use when looking for a dentist you are far more likely to find a trustworthy one.
The tips above will ease dentist anxiety, but what if you’re even more afraid of paying for the procedure? Don’t worry — there are solutions for that too.
For example, a dental discount program can help mitigate costs for uninsured individuals. With one subscription you and and everyone in your household can receive 20-50 percent off the retail cost of both standard and specialized oral health procedures. You can save on costly procedures such as fillings, whitenings and extractions as well as checkups, so next time you go to the dentist you will have no reason to be scared — at least when it comes time to pay the bill.