Ask a Hygienist: Coping with Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety often keeps people from scheduling dental work and regular preventative checkups; perhaps it’s the smells and sounds of the dental office, previous trauma, treatment anticipation, embarrassment, or simply an unexplainable fear. No matter the reason, please know we won’t judge you for it. It’s important to speak up to your clinician about any dental anxiety so we can work with you to ease your stresses and provide a comfortable environment for you.

Here are a few tips to help with your dental anxiety prior to and during your dental appointment:

• Arrive early and relax. Rushing to get to your appointment can cause your heart rate to increase and cause additional emotional stress. We have a variety of books and tea for you to enjoy in our waiting room prior to your appointment!

Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can exacerbate your feelings of anxiety in the dental chair.

Bring or ask for a blanket! A weighted blanket can often have a calming effect in the dental chair. We can also provide a blanket or two while you’re in the chair. (We also have a seat warmer and massage feature our dental chairs – the combination of all three amenities is often very helpful).

Have your earbuds ready. It is often helpful to listen to music, an audiobook or podcast during your appointment to distract yourself and help drain out the sounds of the dental office. Additionally, each room in our office can play its own music and we can play tunes of your choice!

Bring a fidget spinner! Sensory toys can often help with stress and anxiety (and this tip works great for your kiddos as well!) We have a fidget cube in our treatment rooms if you’d like to borrow one.

Ask about nitrous oxide/”laughing gas”. Our office is equipped to provide nitrous oxide (often called “laughing gas”) to patients for all appointments. Nitrous is a safe, odorless gas that is given through a mask that covers your nose for the duration of the appointment. Nitrous can help you feel relaxed and tired, but you will still be responsive for your appointment. The effects of nitrous are completely gone within several minutes so it is safe to drive and return to work after your appointment. Feel free to call us prior to your visit to discuss whether nitrous would be a good option for you.

Be open about your fears and expectations. We understand that dental visits can often be overwhelming. All of us are here to discuss your expectations and help plan your appointments so that your treatment plan is manageable.  

Above all else, we hope you have a provider you trust – whether that’s here at Five Pines or somewhere else. You should always feel comfortable communicating your needs during your appointment. And remember to think long-term… when you are comfortable during your visits, future appointments can be less anxiety-inducing!

Do you have a dental question for Laurena? Email clinic@fivepinesdental.com and let us know what’s on your mind.