Dental anxiety is a common fear, with up to 20 percent of Americans saying they avoid going to the dentist because of it. This fear comes from all sorts of places; it may be because you fear pain, don't like feeling as though you lack control or just don't like the scraping and whirring sounds. It can be difficult to overcome, and there is a chance you may not be able to get rid of that anxiety completely, but you can take steps to help you cope with it.
Find The Right Dentist
Not all dentists are the same. Some specifically cater to those who are afraid of going to the dentist and are prepared to take extra steps to make you feel comfortable. If you're able to look for a new dentist, try searching for one of these. Remember to make an appointment and visit the office and staff, perhaps more than once, before making any big decisions.
Visit The Office
If you don't go to the dentist often, part of your fear could be the unfamiliarity of the office. Talk to your dentist and see if you could be allowed to visit just to help familiarize yourself with the environment. You may not be able to sit in a chair, but you could talk to the staff and perhaps get a short tour. Sometimes knowing how the process works alone is comforting.
Bring A Friend
Having someone with you that you trust and feel safe with can ease your discomfort, especially if they're allowed to sit with you in the same room while the dentist is working. Ask your dentist before your appointments if you are allowed to bring anyone with you, and be sure to explain that it is for the purpose of comfort. If you're worried about not being able to speak or voice any discomfort, you can ask your friend to help speak for you if necessary.
Ask About Sedatives
Sedatives aren't just for lengthy procedures like tooth extractions and root canals. Many dentists offer a range of sedatives, from a simple relaxant on the day of your procedure to something that will knock you out completely. Talk to your dentist before your appointment and see what options you have to help relieve your anxiety. If your dentist doesn't know you have an anxiety problem, he won't know to suggest anything.
Bring Some Distractions
Whatever you're going in for, you can probably bring some sort of distraction with you. Many dentist offices have televisions you can watch while they work, but if not, bring along a media player and some headphones. If nothing else, they can help drown out the noises and make the process go a little faster.
Ask For A Break
Even if you're calm to start, you may suddenly feel claustrophobic or anxious during the procedure. Talk to your dentist about what you can do if that happens. Even if you can't talk, you can establish a hand sign to let the dentist know that you aren't feeling well and need to stop for a moment. Sometimes even establishing an alternative method of communication can take the worry away from trying to figure out what to do if an emergency arises.