At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe that dental anxiety and fear are common issues that affect millions of people worldwide. The thought of visiting the dentist can trigger a range of emotions, from mild unease to overwhelming fear, making it difficult for individuals to seek proper dental care. However, it’s essential to address dental anxiety to maintain good oral health.

Let us explore a few tips and options you can consider to reduce dental anxiety and fear:

1. Communicate with your dentist – Effective communication with your dentist is crucial in alleviating dental anxiety. Many people fear the unknown, so don’t hesitate to ask your dentist about the procedure, potential discomfort, or any other concerns you may have.

A trustworthy dentist will take the time to explain each step of the process, addressing your worries and clarifying any doubts. Moreover, establishing a good rapport with your dentist can help create a more comfortable and understanding environment during appointments.

2. Seek a supportive dental team – Apart from the dentist, the dental team plays a significant role in shaping your overall experience at the dental office. Seek out a dental clinic with a reputation for having a supportive and compassionate team.

From the receptionist to the dental hygienists and assistants, a friendly and empathetic dental team can help ease your anxiety. They can provide reassurance, make accommodations for your needs, and ensure a smooth and stress-free visit.

3. Gradual exposure and familiarization – For individuals with severe dental fear, a gradual approach to dental visits can be beneficial. Start by visiting the dental office without any specific procedure in mind. Familiarize yourself with the environment, meet the staff, and get comfortable with the surroundings.

Once you feel more at ease, schedule a simple and non-invasive check-up or cleaning. This gradual exposure can help desensitize you to the dental setting and build confidence for more complex procedures in the future.

4. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques – Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques can significantly reduce dental anxiety. Before your appointment, practice deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves. Breathing deeply and slowly helps relax the body and mind, reducing stress levels.

During the dental procedure, try focusing on your breath or visualize a peaceful place to distract yourself from any discomfort. Some dental offices also offer amenities such as soothing music or TV shows to keep patients relaxed during treatment.

5. Sedation dentistry options – For individuals with severe dental anxiety or phobia, sedation dentistry can be a viable option. Sedation dentistry involves using medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. There are different levels of sedation available, ranging from mild sedation, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas), to moderate sedation with oral medications, and even deep sedation or general anesthesia for extensive procedures.

The type of sedation used will depend on your level of anxiety and the complexity of the dental work. Before opting for sedation dentistry, discuss the options and potential risks with your dentist to ensure it’s the right choice for you.

6.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Hypnotherapy – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy have shown promising results in reducing dental anxiety and fear. CBT helps individuals identify negative thought patterns related to dental visits and replace them with more positive and constructive ones.

Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, induces a state of deep relaxation and heightened focus, allowing the individual to be more receptive to positive suggestions related to dental visits. Both CBT and hypnotherapy can be effective tools in managing anxiety and building resilience when facing dental procedures.

7. Bring a support person – Having someone you trust accompany you to the dental appointment can provide tremendous emotional support and comfort. This support person could be a family member, friend, or even a professional healthcare advocate. They can hold your hand, offer encouragement, and distract you during the procedure.

Make sure to inform your dentist beforehand if you plan to bring a support person, as they may need to adhere to certain protocols and ensure the comfort of both you and your companion during the visit.

8. Virtual reality and distraction techniques – Modern dental offices may offer virtual reality (VR) headsets or other distraction techniques to help patients relax during treatment. VR can transport you to a different environment, taking your focus away from the dental procedure. Watching calming scenes or engaging in interactive games can reduce stress and anxiety levels significantly.

Alternatively, some dental practices play relaxing music, podcasts, or audiobooks to divert your attention during treatment. These distraction techniques create a more pleasant experience and help in managing dental anxiety.

9. Using a desensitization hierarchy – Desensitization involves systematically exposing yourself to increasingly challenging situations related to dental visits. Create a hierarchy of dental-related scenarios that provoke anxiety, starting from the least anxiety-inducing to the most.

Gradually work your way up the hierarchy, practising relaxation techniques at each level until you feel comfortable moving to the next. This method allows you to build confidence progressively and develop coping skills along the way.

10. Seeking professional help – While the above tips can be helpful for managing dental anxiety, it’s crucial to recognize when professional help is needed. If dental fear is significantly affecting your daily life and preventing you from seeking necessary dental care, consider consulting a mental health professional with experience in treating dental anxiety.

They can offer personalised strategies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or exposure therapy, to address your specific fears and concerns. Additionally, dentists specialised in treating anxious patients, often referred to as “dental phobia specialists,” can provide extra support and tailored approaches to make dental visits more comfortable. At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest you try to remember positive experiences when you have had a dental visit in the past that was relatively comfortable and stress-free.  Focus on the fact that not every dental appointment has to be unpleasant. Remind yourself of how good it felt to take care of your oral health and how you overcame your anxiety during that visit. Holding onto these positive memories can help build confidence and reduce anxiety for future appointments.