Curled toes, tight shoulders, grim expression, hands gripped firmly on the arm rests – does that sound like you when you’re at the dentist? If so, you’re not alone – more than 75 percent of Americans feel anxiety about dental appointments. Though most dentist visits don’t exactly feel like a trip to the spa, you can overcome your anxiety and relax a little, even when you’re in the chair.
First of all, plan ahead. Try to book an appointment at a time when you’re not in a rush to get somewhere else, and don’t book at a time when you know you’re going to feel stressed. For example, if you have a big presentation at work in the afternoon, that morning may not be the ideal time for a dentist visit. Avoid caffeine and sugar before your appointment – too much of either one can make you feel anxious and jittery.
Once you’re at the dentist’s office, take some slow, deep breaths if you feel yourself tensing up. You can even try imagining yourself at a beach or in a hammock. Next, think about your muscles. Studies have shown that patients who can relax their muscles have less dental anxiety, so start by sitting comfortably. Beginning with your head and working down through your jaw, shoulders and back, move each joint from side to side, loosening them up and releasing the tension.
Let your dentist know if you’re feeling anxious. He or she likely deals with nervous patients on a regular basis and may have some relaxation techniques for you to try. If your dentist agrees, you may even want to bring headphones in and listen to music to distract yourself while your teeth are being worked on.