Are you scared of the dentist?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Here are some helpful guidelines to help you overcome your fear, or at least not let it keep you from visiting the dentist.

1**Understand that your fears are normal.  The fear of dentists is very common.  Let’s face it-going to the dentist is not fun; dentists do poke and prod a sensitive area of your body.  Often an upsetting childhood dental experience has lasting effects into adulthood.  But dentists are well-trained today and have tools and techniques to minimize discomfort.

2**Find a good dentist for you.  Find a dentist who understands that you are anxious and will work with you to help you feel comfortable.  Talk to people you know about their dentists to find one who is sympathetic.  Schedule an office visit to meet the dentist without doing any dental work.  This will give you an opportunity to evaluate the office.  Be prepared to pay for the dentist’s time.  If the office finds this a strange request, move on–this is not the dentist for you.

3**Make friends with the dentist.  Chat and get to know your dentist a little.  Ask him about his day, and tell him about yours.  Talk about your hobbies, your work, things you have in common.  Chatting with the dentist and making friends with him will help you feel more comfortable in his office and will dispel your anxiety about your appointment.

4**Know that you don’t have to do everything at once.  Schedule an examination so you can meet the dentist.  Then come back for a cleaning.  A couple of successful, low stress experiences will help you cope.

5**For extreme fears, use a good psychologist or counselor.  If you have so much anxiety about the dentist’s office that you can’t even bring yourself to walk into the office, consider getting psychological help.  Phobias can be treated using techniques such as desensitization therapy, which is effective.

6**Use a stress reliever.  Bring a stress ball and keep it in your hand.  Squeeze it hard whenever you start to feel anxious.  It will release your stress.

7**Bring something to take your mind off the dentist appointment.  Take a fun book to read, or listen to music while waiting for your appointment.  This will help you focus on something other than the upcoming appointment and can help you relax.

8**Focus on your breathing to help yourself calm down.  Breathe in deeply, hold your breath a bit, and then slowly exhale.  If you feel you are having a panic attack it helps to breathe deeply from your stomach rather than your chest.

9**Bring a friend or a family member for moral support.  If you feel that you’re too anxious or nervous to go through this alone, ask a friend or family member to help you through it.  Make sure this person is comfortable with dentists and will keep you relaxed and happy.

10**Envision a positive experience.  Visualize how you would like your appointment to go and meditate on the positive outcomes, rather than thinking of all the possible scenarios.  For example, rather than focusing on the pain of the appointment itself, envision how wonderful it will be to have a beautiful, healthy smile.

11**Think positive thoughts! Remember–when you get through this, you will prove to yourself you are a strong person, who takes care of your body.  This will be over soon–and don’t forget to reward yourself!

12**Set a date after your dentist appointment to do something fun. or, reward yourself if you think you have overcome your fear.

13**Realize that dental operations are perfectly safe and easy, and can almost be kind of fun.  Even if you have to get a filling, it’s not the end of the world! It is actually kind of fun when you lip feels blown up.  Focus on that rather than the scary thought of getting the Novocaine shot.

14**If all else fails, know that sedation is an option.  Though this should only be used as a last resort, the dentist can provide a number of sedation options.  They range from giving you a pill that you take an hour before coming to the office to calm you, to local anesthesia.  While Novocaine will numb your mouth so you cannot feel pain, many people  are fearful of the needle.  A dentist can use a local anesthetic to numb the area before beginning the injection.


-Maintain a positive attitude.  Remember that you are seeing the dentist to help you keep your teeth clean, not to scare you.

-Anesthetics are not 100% effective for 100% of the population.  If pain is your fear, be very clear up front in communicating this to your doctor, along with your past experiences.  Don’t be afraid to dentist-shop until you find one willing to work with you.  If your dentist doesn’t take your past dental pain experiences seriously, find another dentist.

-Dentistry has come a long way.  There is very little, if any pain associated with any procedure performed at a dental office.  The anesthetics used for injections are profound and should completely numb the area being worked on.  There is even an anesthetic used before the injection so you are already numb before you even get the shot that numbs you!

-If all else fails, it is possible to have all your dental work done under IV sedation.  Ask your regular dentist or a dental school for a referral.  It’s expensive, but less so than losing your teeth.

-It might sound strange, but if you can see what’s going on, you can be distracted from the fear and focus on the procedure.  Some dental lamps have mirrors attached so you can see into your mouth and what’s going on.  It can be quite interesting, too!

-Brush your teeth well so that you don’t have to go back and get fillings!  Brush twice a day whereas when you floss and mouthwash do this at least once a day.


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