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5 Tips for getting through a dentist appointment without panicking

Regular check-ups, cleanings and preventative care can save you more time and pain. But try telling that to someone like me, who had a full on panic attack in the chair before they even touched me!

Today, as I was trying not to think about the high-pitched scream of the drill or counting down the seconds until I could run, I realized some of the things I had done in prep ahead of time really did help the visit to not be so bad. So, here are my five tips.

Be honest about your anxiety and fears

Trust me, a good dentist knows how much you hate him and how afraid you are, and he wants to help you. However, you have to be the one to have a real, honest conversation about how you are feeling. Inform your dentist if you have panic attacks or extreme fear. They need to know these things so they can help you to have a better experience.

Make short visits

Some procedures, like a deep cleaning, can take a couple of hours depending on what needs to be done. If you have so much fear that the idea of sitting in the chair for an hour is just too much, make shorter appointments. That sounds pretty simple! This means you will only sit for an hour, which includes numbing time, and they will do one area at a time. The downside is you have to go back more often, take more time from your week, more numbing and more recovery time. I am OK with that myself. I need to be able to leave and come back.

Make a “dentist” playlist and don’t forget your earbuds

We all have that music that takes us away to another place. I love the sounds of the ocean: lovely meditating music to my ears. Fill your playlist up with music that calms your mind and takes away the nerve-wracking sound of the dental work. You can even search for anxiety meditation on most music platforms, and you will find a lot of really great sounds that are meant to distract you from your fears.

Count through it

This simple trick helps me get through difficulties such as handling all of my children, dental work and even excruciatingly long dinners with my brother-in-law. Count backwards from 100 slowly, visualizing the numbers. As the hygienist starts each time, restart your count. They never work without relief for longer than 100 seconds. This slow, meditative counting actually helps keep you from having a panic attack from thinking about how scared you are. Make sure you are breathing slowly with each number and you will find that the appointment is over before you know it.

Take a pain reliever before going

One hour before your visit, take your pain reliever; it will ease the discomfort you are feeling during the procedure, and you can take more again later if you really need it. I also like to bring along some lavender essential oils on a piece of cloth, which I can hold onto and smell whenever I am feeling uncomfortable.

All in all, going to the dentist isn’t horrible. It’s not pleasant; however, modern dentistry has really found ways to help all of us fearful patients have better visits with less pain and discomfort. Waiting until you have pain from a broken tooth or cavities doesn’t save you from the dentist, but it does make you wish that you would have gone in before there was a problem. Now you know the things you can do for your next visit so it isn’t so bad. And don’t forget to floss!

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