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Dental Anxiety? Tips to Make Your Trip to the Staten Island Dentist a Little Easier

If you're avoiding care because of dental anxiety in Staten Island, you can use these tips and techniques to conquer your fears.

In our culture, we tend to associate dentistry with pain, stress, and fear. It can make it almost impossible for some of us to schedule an appointment, even when we have a pressing concern. It’s not that we don’t want to take care of ourselves. We’re fighting something deeper–a primal instinct that takes hold. This is referred to as dental anxiety. 

Dental anxiety is not to be confused with psychiatric illnesses like anxiety disorders and phobias, which can compound the problem. But it can be crippling, and it does stop patients from maintaining their oral health. 

Fortunately, there is hope. If you’re experiencing dental anxiety, there are several tips and techniques that you can use to make your time in the office easier. Read below to find out how.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Dental anxiety can manifest itself both physically and mentally–causing worries, trembling, sweating, and hyperventilation. That is why simple relaxation techniques can be so effective at combatting the problem. They produce results that impact both the body and the mind.   

Before you go to the dentist, try to find a way to slip yourself into a state of ease. There are several ways to do that. Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most effective because it doesn’t force patients to tackle their restless mind. There’s no learning to meditate, no struggling to clear your head. 

Most people can’t just order their thoughts to stop. But they can cause their muscles to relax, which will in turn allow the mind and body to rest. The exercise is simple. Find a quiet space to sit or lie down. Many patients like to do this right before they enter the office so they can begin the appointment in a rested state.

Close your eyes and move through each muscle group, starting at the top of your head down to your toes. Clench each muscle as hard as you can, then release. Your brow, your nose, your face muscles, your neck, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your stomach, your chest–progressively moving lower. Put effort into the clenching–the tighter, the better.

You’ll notice that the muscles tend to go limp. You’ll breathe easier. You’ll think more clearly, and you won’t be on edge, which means you won’t be worried when you finally enter the dentist’s office. 

Breathing Techniques

Breathing techniques might seem arbitrary, especially when you’re trembling and ready to jump out of your skin. Being told to “take a deep breath” isn’t exactly calming. But that’s because most people haven’t been taught how to use their breath as a relaxation tool. There are many techniques out there–some dating back centuries, even thousands of years. The following are some of the most common. 

  • 4-7-8 Breathing - This breathing technique is based on an ancient yogic practice called Pranayama. It’s been called a natural tranquillizer for the nervous system. Patients inhale for four seconds, hold their breath for seven seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. 
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing - When we’re stressed, we take quick, shallow breaths through the top of our chest. This effect can be reversed–along with the stress that comes with it–by taking in deep breaths, filling the stomach fully, allowing it to rise and fall. If your stomach is rising and falling, and you’re really pulling in air, you’re doing this properly. 
  • 4-4-4 Breathing - 4-4-4 breathing is another timed breathing exercise known for its ability to distract both the body and the mind. It’s a great alternative to 4-7-8 breathing because it’s much easier to maintain. Beginners prefer it. Simply exhale for four seconds, hold, inhale for four seconds, hold, and then repeat. 

These techniques are particularly helpful because they can be used inside the office, while in the waiting room, or even sitting in the dental chair–to a certain degree. This will give you an assist during the appointment. 

Distract Yourself

Anxiety has a purpose. It’s supposed to be a signal that causes us to react when something is wrong. If you distract yourself from that signal, it will subside. That is especially important when you’re in the dental chair and you can’t see what’s going on around you. That can cause feelings of powerlessness and foreboding. 

That’s why many patients choose to bring earbuds so they can zone out and listen to their favorite music while the dentist is working. If that’s not possible, try playing a game or watching a video on your phone. You could even make conversation or count in your head–anything that effectively distracts you from what’s happening. 

Don’t Endure Dental Anxiety Alone

Many patients find that it helps to bring someone with them into the office. They can stay in the waiting room or come back and sit beside you during your appointment. That extra support could be enough to get you through. 

It’s also a good idea to let the dentist know what’s going on. At Healthy Smiles of Staten Island, we encounter dental anxiety every single day, and we will make every accommodation necessary to ensure that you’re comfortable during your time here. 

If you’re anxious about what the experience might be like, contact us at (718) 948-1600 or schedule a consultation online, and we will be right there, ready to stand by your side.