Dental Anxiety: 3 Ways to Stop Fearing the Dentist

If you ever get nervous just thinking about going to the dentist, you're not alone. Perhaps you're scared the visit might hurt or you haven't been in a while and not sure what the dentist will find. 

Whatever your reason, the right dental team will make sure your dental and your emotional health are taken care of. The more you delay or just don't go to the dentist, the higher your risk of developing dental problems that will make gearing up for future dental visits more difficult. In fact, seeing your dentist regularly can actually make the entire process from making an appointment to sailing through it much easier on many levels. 

Use these strategies at your next appointment to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile. 

1. Speak up 

Anyone with anxiety knows sharing your feelings makes a world of difference. If you're tense or anxious, do yourself a favor and get your concerns off your chest. Your dentist and dental team are better able to treat you if they know your needs. 

  • Tell your dentist about your anxiety. When you book your appointment, tell the receptionist you're nervous about dental visits. Remind the dentist and dental staff about your anxiety when you arrive.
  • Share any bad experiences you may have had in the past, and ask for suggestions on coping strategies. 
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing what is going to happen alleviates any fears of the unknown. 
  • Agree on a signal. Let your dentist know by raising your hand if you need to take a break during an exam. 
  • If you experience pain even with a local anesthetic, tell your dentist. Some patients get embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don't want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure. Talk with your dentist about pain before it starts so your dentist knows how to communicate with you and make it more comfortable. 

2. Distract yourself 

Taking your mind off the exam may seem impossible when you're nervous, but there are some things that that can help distract your thoughts. 
  • Wear headphones. If the sound of the drill bothers you, bring headphones so you can listen to your favorite music or audiobook. Some dental offices even have televisions or show DVDs. 
  • Occupy your hands by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object, like a fidget spinner. 
  • Imagine your happy place and visualize yourself at a relaxing beach or garden. 

3. Use mindfulness techniques 

Relaxation starts in the mind. Try deep breathing exercises to help relax tension in your muscles. 
  • Count your breaths. Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Do this five times while you're waiting for your appointment, or during breaks while you're sitting in the dental chair. 
  • Do a body scan. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. Start with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, you can focus on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck and down the rest of your body. 


Can You Heal A Cavity At Home?

You feel a sharp pain when you bite down or try to eat. You think it's a cavity, but you're not 100 percent sure. Your dentist can see you, but it will be a few days. Meanwhile, you want relief and a solution now. The big question you have is, can you heal cavity pain at home, without help from your dentist?

Although there are steps you can take to remineralize your tooth enamel and halt the decay process at home, if you suspect that you have a cavity, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your dentist for treatment. In the early stages, it is possible to reverse dental decay. But, as the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes, once the enamel is fully weakened and destroyed, only a dentist can repair the damage created by a cavity.

Reversing Early Cavities
Although only a dentist can diagnose a cavity, you might be able to see the early signs of decay by taking a look at your teeth in the mirror. A white spot on a tooth is usually a sign that the enamel is weak and that decay is likely.

At this stage, you can remineralize the tooth to strengthen its enamel and correct the decay. The American Dental Association recommends using antibacterial rinses or toothpastes that contain fluoride and calcium to repair the tooth. You can ask your dentist what he or she recommends using, while you wait for your scheduled appointment.

Getting Help for Your Cavity
Once a cavity has actually developed, the only really effective way to heal cavity pain is by having your dentist repair it. How a dentist repairs a cavity depends on how far along it is. If the decay has created a hole in the tooth's enamel but hasn't yet spread to the nerves of the tooth, your dentist will likely create a filling for the tooth. After the cavity is cleaned out, the filling is placed to seal up the hole in the tooth and preventing further decay from occurring.

In more severe cases, your dentist might need to perform a root canal to fix the tooth or you might need to have the entire tooth removed if it is severely decayed and replaced with an implant or bridge. Although these can seem like extreme options, they will help improve the overall health of your mouth in the long run.

Preventing Future Cavities
The odds are likely that you don't want to go through the stress of worrying about a cavity or figuring out the best way to treat and heal a cavity again. The good news is that you can be proactive about preventing more cavities from forming.

Step one is to re-evaluate your diet. The bacteria in your mouth that create cavities love to feed on sugars and starches. This process causes them to create acids which harm the teeth and wear away enamel. To protect your teeth, try to avoid sugary or starchy foods as much as possible. You can also focus on eating foods that help fight decay, such as dairy products and raw vegetables.

Taking care of your teeth and gums at home will also help prevent future cavities.

It's also important to continue to see your dentist regularly so that he or she can detect early signs of cavities and help you reverse the damage, without the need for a filling or more extensive treatment. Although twice-a-year dental visits are usually recommended, your dentist might suggest coming in more often if you have a history of cavities. Catching decay and cavities early is the key to healing them without an unpleasant treatment.