Preparing for Your Dental Appointment: Four Steps for the Fearful Patient

man smiling in dental chair

If you find yourself avoiding dental appointments year after year, you’re in good company. About half of all Americans have some degree of anxiety associated with going to the dentist. For many of them, that anxiety is severe enough that they avoid the dentist altogether. Unfortunately, the consequences of neglecting dental appointments go beyond simple aesthetics. In fact, poor oral hygiene has been linked to a host of health problems ranging from infections to heart disease. Rather than avoiding your twice-yearly dental check-ups, take the time to prepare yourself for them. Consider the following tips to help make your dental experience as anxiety-free as possible:

Find the right dentist. First thing’s first: find a dentist that you trust. How can you do this? Consider asking friends and family members for recommendations. Read testimonials and online reviews of various practices you’re considering. If you still feel unsure, ask your family doctor if he or she has any recommendations. Then, don’t hesitate to call the dental offices you’re considering and ask clarifying questions. Alternatively, you might request an in-person meeting or an office tour. The bottom line is this: if you’re not with the right dental practice for your unique needs, you’re unlikely to find the comfort you’re seeking.

Honesty is the best policy. It’s common for anxious patients to try to hide their anxiety from the dentist. This is counterproductive and doesn’t do anyone any favors. Instead of trying to hide your fears or self-medicating before your appointment, make it a point to talk to your dentist upfront. There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed; countless patients experience dental anxiety. Discuss your specific fears with your dentist or hygienist. Is it the loss of control that you fear? Or, does the possibility of pain make you anxious? Being honest and specific about your fears allows your dental team to help develop a plan to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible during your appointment.

Have a relaxation plan in place. If you know you’re prone to dental-related anxiety, having a relaxation plan in place when you go in for an appointment is key to maximizing your comfort. For many fearful patients, bringing an iPod filled with their favorite relaxing music is helpful; that way, they can tune out the sounds of dental tools being used during their procedures. Guided imagery is also an effective method for anxiety reduction. Other patients find it helpful to bring a squeezable stress ball along to their appointments. Finally, many fearful patients work with their dentists to establish a gesture– such as raising a hand– to indicate that they need to take a break during a procedure.

Familiarize yourself with new technology. Patients who haven’t set foot in a dentist’s office in years are often surprised by the new technology that’s available. In fact, many anxious patients admit that they might not have avoided the dentist for so long if they had familiarized themselves with today’s technology and treatment advances. For example, countless fearful patients cite the dreaded needle as one of the most anxiety-provoking parts of the cavity filling process. However, most dental offices today use a topical anesthetic like lidocaine to numb the area before the needle prick. Another treatment advance called Waterlase allows dentists to forego traditional dental tools like the drill when performing routine procedures. Instead, a laser and water spray are used and can help with everything from cavity preparation to root canal procedures.

At Hinsdale Dental, we do everything we can to help ensure your comfort while you’re in our care. It’s time to stop putting off that long overdue check-up. Contact us today if you’re ready to take charge of your oral health.

Return to Blog