Do your palms sweat when you visit the dentist? You're not alone. Between nine and 15 percent of the American population are seriously scared to see the dentist. That's around 30 to 40 million people!
Dental phobia — the irrational fear of receiving dental care — isn't confined to the United States, either. Thirty-six percent of people in the United Kingdom who don't see a dentist regularly say fear is the main reason. Luckily, there are various ways to reduce anxiety before your next trip to the dentist. Here are five that you should know about.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
Rapid heartbeat, sleepless nights, hot flashes, cold chills — a trip to the dentist might bring on all of these symptoms. Deep breathing, however, could reduce anxiety before and during your next dental exam. It's really simple. Just breathe in through your nose, hold your breath for five seconds and then exhale. Oh, and try to push out any negative thoughts as you breathe out. Practice deep breathing as you drive to your dental appointment or when you sit in the dentist's chair.
2. Use Mindfulness
Take your deep breathing to the next level with mindfulness — a relaxing mental state where you recognize your thoughts and feelings. Research shows that mindfulness reduces anxiety by 70 percent. Moreover, almost three-quarters of doctors say patients would benefit from this activity. Mindfulness is all about controlling your breathing and observing negative thought patterns. Practice it the night before your next dental exam to reduce stress.
3. Talk to Your Dentist About Your Anxiety
This one's really important. If you worry about receiving dental care, talk to your dentist. He or she might recommend stress management techniques so you can feel more comfortable during your appointment. If you suffer from extreme anxiety, your dentist might use nitrous oxide and dental anesthetic while you receive treatment.
4. Eat Healthy Foods Before Your Appointment
Did you know that the food you consume could make your dental anxiety even worse? Caffeine, sodium, refined sugar — these are just some of the ingredients that might seriously stress you out. Caffeine, in particular, could increase your heart rate and boost blood pressure. On the day of your dental appointment, swap that morning cup of joe for something that will calm your nerves. Fresh fruit smoothies — packed full of antioxidants and energy-boosting vitamins — are a great choice. Foods that contain protein — fish, nuts, seeds, etc. — also have a soothing effect on your mind.
5. Listen to Your Favorite Music
When you have dental anxiety, there's nothing worse than the sound of a dentist drill or suction tube. Ask your dentist if you can pop in your earphones during your appointment to cancel out these unpleasant noises. Research shows that music has a positive effect on the body. One study concluded that listening to music before a stressful event affected the body's psychological stress response system and, ultimately, reduced stress.
If the thought of visiting a dentist fills you with dread, these five tips will help you manage anxiety more effectively. Practicing deep breathing and mindfulness, talking to your dentist, eating healthy foods and listening to your favorite music should reduce your stress levels in the run-up to your next dental exam.