5 Ways to Naturally Reduce Dental Anxiety
Dentists are nice people. But the threat of all those needles and drills can be enough to cause a bit of panic in anyone.
Dental anxiety is fairly common in adults. As many as 9 to 20 percent of American adults have such a phobia of going to the dentist that they avoid going at all costs. This, of course, is not a good strategy, as dodging the dentist can lead to problems that will require more extensive – and probably more painful – dental visits in the future.
So for some, taking a sedative or using nitrous oxide is the method of choice for quelling their dental anxiety. This isn’t the answer for everyone, though. Some individuals prefer a more natural approach, and there are five drug-free options to try if you fall into the latter group.
1. Talk to your dentist.
Simply talking to your dentist about your phobia is arguably one of the most effective first steps you can take in calming your anxiety. For one, getting your fear out in the open, instead of keeping it balled up inside, can help you clear your head. But even more than that, being honest with your dentist can help him adjust his strategy in treating you. Once your dentist is aware of your phobia, he will take extra care to be as gentle as possible while checking in with you often to make sure you are calm and comfortable.
2. Try aromatherapy.
The scents given off by orange, lavender, rose and frankincense essential oils are believed to lead to feelings of calm and relaxation in people by triggering the neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood and anxiety, and therefore may be effective in soothing your nerves before a dental visit. All of these scents can be utilized in any of the following methods:
- Inhalation – Put a few drops of your essential oil of choice on a cloth or cotton ball and inhale the soothing aroma. You could even bring this with you to your dental appointment and inhale the scent when you feel your anxiety spike.
- Vaporization – Before your visit, add a few drops of your essential oil to a mug or bowl of hot water and inhale the steam.
- Bathing – This one should also be done before your appointment. Fill your tub with warm or hot water, drop in a few beads of your favorite scented soothing oil and mix it around in the water. Soak in the tub and relax.
- Massage – Often a professional massage is one of the best ways to relax, regardless of the source of your stress. For individuals suffering from dental anxiety, a massage before your appointment could calm you down and get you into the right frame of mind in preparing for your visit. Or, a massage afterward could be your reward for visiting the dentist and making it through your appointment. Either way, ask your masseuse to add a few drops of one of the relaxing scents into her massage oil.
- Spray – Mix one teaspoon of your essential oil into 7 ounces of distilled water, plus an ounce of rubbing alcohol. Then spray this mix onto your clothing for the day, or into the air around you.
3. Drink chamomile tea.
A 2009 study by the University of Pennsylvania confirmed what many people had already believed for centuries: chamomile has definite calming properties when it comes to promoting sleep and stress relief. So you may consider sipping a hot cup of chamomile tea before your dental visit to help calm your nerves.
Chamomile is also available in the form of an herbal supplement that can be taken orally.
4. Go to an acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is a holistic form of medicine that uses needles placed into specific pressure points in the body to relieve a myriad of health problems, especially chronic pain and migraines. In recent years, more and more acupuncturists have begun successfully administering the practice for general anxiety relief as well.
5. Get hypnotized.
Hypnotherapy can be beneficial for individuals with dental phobias because, by definition, it is a method of guided relaxation. While in that relaxed state – also known as a trance – your attention is focused on one specific thought or task and therefore away from your dental procedure. Additionally, it helps you block the awareness of pain. So if it’s the pain associated with visiting the dentist that you’re most anxious about, hypnosis may be especially helpful to you.