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Having fears is just part of being a human being. Many fears make sense because they can be thought of as safety mechanisms to keep us free from harm or pain. We are afraid of heights because we do not want to fall and get hurt. Some of us are afraid of the ocean because we worry about sharks.  

In some cases, people have fears that can be reduced or eliminated with a bit of knowledge and a few behavior adjustments. Fear of going to a dentist is a common issue for many children and adults. Maybe they have had an unfortunate experience, or there has been no experience at all. No matter the origin of the fear, no adult or pediatric dentist, especially those who practice at Smile Dental Group, wants any of their patients to feel anxiety or fear during their dental appointments.   

To help adults and children prepare to have calm, worry-free dental cleanings and restorative dentistry work, let's look at some helpful strategies to put your mind at ease so everyone can have a successful visit.  

Six Best Practices to Help Overcome Fears 

1. Communication is Essential. Adults must advocate for themselves, and parents and guardians must advocate for children by establishing clear communication before any dental service is performed. Dentists and dental hygienists know that many patients experience fear before walking through the door. Discuss the extent of any fears in advance to ensure that needs are met during the appointment. Some patients may feel a little apprehensive, and others may have anxiety that can prevent a successful procedure outcome. It is recommended that you explain this to the dentist and dental hygienist and have them explain what will take place during the visit. Knowing what to expect can significantly reduce adult concerns and make it less scary for children. 

2. Consider Pharmaceutical Options. This might be a valuable option to think about, particularly for adults who have significant fear. Still, it requires a serious conversation with your dentist to identify what may be a medicinal choice to reduce anxiety. But non-medicinal techniques for calming fears are generally the preferred option.  

3. Practice Relaxation Exercises. Incorporating this practice can help reduce the fear of the dentist as well as helping to ease other stressors. There are numerous ways to relax your muscles and calm your mind, including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and visualization to minimize tension during your appointment. 

4. Bring a distraction. Focusing your attention elsewhere can significantly reduce anxiety and fear while sitting in the dentist's chair. Fortunately, in the digital age, we have so many options to keep our brains occupied. Consider bringing in headphones to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. These are especially helpful when a patient can listen to a calm, soothing voice or softly played songs. If a distraction needs to be more “analog,” many people find a stress ball to squeeze an effective distraction.  

5. A Little at a Time. Gradual exposure to the dentist might help ease fears, especially when starting with routine dental cleanings. Adults and children can get used to the environment and the experience before preparing for future complex procedures like fillings, crowns, or braces. Having children begin their cleanings at an early age can help them become accustomed to the routine. 

6. Seek Professional Help. If your fear of the dentist is severe and prevents you from scheduling any procedure, speaking with a mental health professional may be beneficial. A therapist or counselor is trained in dealing with fears and more serious phobias and can provide coping strategies to help overcome the issues.  

Just for Children 

 Parents and guardians must take their children’s fears very seriously and help them to learn that going to a dentist is a positive experience that keeps their teeth healthy. Encourage your child with positive reinforcement for visiting the dentist. A small reward is never amiss, but make sure it is sugar-free! Use reassuring language to minimize their fears so they feel comfortable and relaxed. And for the really little ones, it cannot hurt to roleplay and pretend to be a dentist before their visit, so they get a better idea of what to expect. Who knows? They may even decide to become a dentist when they grow up!   

It is always beneficial to remind adults and children that attention to oral health, especially by going to routine dental cleanings, is important to overall health and well-being. With some forethought and the right strategies, you can overcome your fear of the dentist and take the necessary steps to maintain good oral health. Make an appointment today with a pediatric dentist or one of our dentists specializing in restorative dentistry. The dentists and staff at Smile Dental Group are always ready to see your smile.

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