Do you feel anxiety about going to the dentist? If so, you’re in the good company of 20% of people that report significant dentist anxiety.
There are many reasons people are afraid of going to the dentist:
- Previous negative dental experiences
- Fear of pain
- Feeling out of control
- Fear of something going wrong
- Embarrassment about their assessment of your teeth
- Claustrophobia from someone working in your mouth
While some people feel general anxiety and nervousness about the dentist, others experience panic and may even develop dental phobia.
A phobia is defined as an irrational, or extreme fear about something, the severity of which causes significant distress and negatively impacts your life.
7 Signs that you may be dealing with a dental phobia include:
- Significant distress proceeding a dental visit or procedure, for example: Not being able to sleep before the exam, crying, feeling physically ill, or experiencing anxiety or panic
- Emotional distress that causes significant issues in your life associated with dental work, dental offices, or even dental-related conversations
- Difficulty managing dental-related stress, maybe to the severity where medications are required
- Avoidance of going regular dental cleanings
- Avoidance of necessary dental procedures
- Dentist related nightmares
- Physical signs of stress associated with dental anxiety, for example, Flushes of chills or heat, heart pounding, shaking, trembling, muscle tension, nausea, dizziness, feeling like you’re choking, butterflies in the stomach, ear ringing, sweating, dry mouth, and difficulty breathing.
Natural Solutions for Easing Dental Fear:
- Pick a dentist that is a good fit: Remember you are the customer and that your dentist is working for you. You deserve to feel comfortable and supported, including supported in any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty you may have. If your dentist is not open to questions or feedback, find a new dentist.
- Take back your control: Feeling out of control and powerless is one of the most common reasons people get anxiety at the dentist. You can take back your control in a few simple steps:
- First: Ask your doctor to sit you down and explain each stage of the procedure and what to expect, how long it will take.
- Second: Come with questions and make sure your dentist answers them to your satisfaction.
- Third: Establish a signal with your dentist indicating you need a break, that you’re uncomfortable if you’re concerned about anything that is going on. An example of a signal is to simply raise your hand.
- Timing of dental appointments: Schedule appointments at times of day when you are less stressed, or when the dentist’s office is less busy.
- Prep ahead of time: Prepare for success so that you feel equipped and ready for the most positive dental experience possible.
- Self-hypnosis: Doing self-hypnosis is an excellent strategy that has been shown to be effective for dentist-related anxiety. Simply search on your favorite mindfulness app or on youtube for keywords like “hypnosis for dental anxiety,” or “self-hypnosis for dental phobia,” and start practicing a few weeks before your visit.
- Medications/ Supplements before you go to the dentist: If you are experiencing extreme stress before a dental procedure, your doctor might recommend you start taking anxiety-reducing medications or supplements before your visit to the dentist. This is called “chasing the anxiety” which is where we try to slow the anxiety down before it mounts into full blown panic. My favorite pre-game anxiety-stopping support is Happy Sleepy Powder. Of course, always talk with your doctor before taking anything new or different.
- Mindfulness techniques: Using a mantra, doing four-count square breathing, and doing a body scan are all techniques to keep the anxiety at bay and to distract you while you’re in the dentist’s chair. My favorite mindfulness technique for the dentist’s waiting room is the waiting room grounding practice, here’s how: Notice 5 things that you can see, 5 things that you can feel, 5 things you can smell, and bring two things you can taste (mint, ginger drop, xylitol lolly).
- Bring headphones: Select music that is enjoyable or soothing to you and listen to it in the waiting room and while you’re in the dental chair. That can also help to drown out some of the funny sounds made by the dental tools.
- Bring a buddy: Bring someone with you to the dentist who is good support, whether a friend or family member.
- Get comfy: Wear comfortable clothing that feels relaxing and safe. For me, it’s a soft hoodie and leggings. My dentist also offers me a warm blanket, which I always welcome.
- Essential Oils for Dentist Anxiety: It is well established that certain essential oils (EO) reduce anxiety through inhalation or even direct application of the oil. One of the things that give me the most anxiety at the dentist is the smell of novocaine and so using aromatherapy has been extremely helpful for me. You may place it in the bowl of your ear (to target the vagus nerve), on your temples, wrist, or if your dentist is not open to you using scents, you can place essential oils on the soles of your toes or bottoms of your feet. My favorite oils are Ylang-ylang, lavender, and citrus.
- GABA support supplements: As mentioned above, my favorite anti-anxiety support is Happy Sleepy Powder.
- Anti-Anxiety Herbs:
- Kava Kava has been shown to be an effective alternative to those habit-forming benzodiazepine medications and is my favorite if I have things to do after my dentist visit. Kava kava reduces anxiety without causing sedation and brain fog.
- Passiflora is another great calming herb. Passiflora works on the GABA receptors in your brain to cause relaxation and soothe stress. Passiflora is more gentle and may be useful in both children and adults to bring down anxiety.
- Homeopathy for dentist anxiety: Homeopathy is safe, natural and when the right remedy is selected, homeopathy can be extremely effective for dentist anxiety. Homeopathic remedies to consider:
- Arsenicum: Anxiety with restlessness, desire for company, and feels chilly and desires warm blankets when anxious.
- Argentum Nitricum: Anxiety with claustrophobia, feeling hot, agitated, and desire to go out in the open air.
- Pulsatilla: Anxiety with weepiness and desire to be comforted and reassured. Prefers a cooler room when anxious.
- Aconite: Hysterical anxiety and fear of death, extreme agitation, and restlessness that is not comforted with reassurance or company.
A little love before we go…
Going to the dentist is an important part of being healthy, and there are solutions to send dentist anxiety backstage. While using the tools we talked about today will make a giant impact on your dentist anxiety overall, truly getting to the root of why you feel anxious, to begin with, is key.
For example, if you have had dental trauma, or if you feel unsafe with your dentist, or if you have generalized anxiety and going to the dentist makes you feel a thousand times worse, it’s time to heal the root of your trauma.
Be sure you are listening to the anxiety, hearing the message that deeper healing is needed. You can get your life back, and you can go to the dentist without all the baggage anxiety and dentist phobia drags along in tow.
I’d love to give you a free gift: It’s called the Anxiety Wellness Springboard. You’ll get a free book that will teach you my favorite strategies for healing from anxiety.
Here’s to your next chapter <3
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational video e-courses, books, and exclusive free Facebook group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.