Whether it’s a fleeting twinge of anxiety or a deep-seated dental phobia, it’s estimated that up to 80 percent of American men and women have qualms about setting foot in their dentist’s office. At A New Smile Dental Group, your San Fernando Valley family dentists offer several options to soothe all degrees of dental anxiety. In our years of experience, we’ve also picked up a number of helpful tips from our anxious patients.
How We Make Dentistry More Comfortable
Comfort dentistry isn’t only for patients who experience anxiety during dental appointments. For example, many of our patients find that their time in our chair is made more pleasant by listening to their favorite music or watching a movie. Anyone can appreciate our use of silent dental instruments, which allow us to treat patients without the typical “dentist office” noises that many find discomfiting.
Key to our patients’ comfort is the range of options available, including needle-free sedation (nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”) and needle-free anesthesia. Conscious sedation, in which an oral medication is administered, is also available. Note that patients who choose an oral sedative will need transportation to and from their appointment, as the medication will cause some residual drowsiness.
Self-Soothing Tips for Dental Anxiety
Voice your concerns: Above all, communicate with your dentist about your feelings, especially if you have certain triggers. Understanding your specific concerns helps us to examine, clean, and treat your teeth more effectively while ensuring your comfort. If you have a sensitive gag reflex, tell us. If an unpleasant experience with another dentist is to blame, provide as much detail as possible.
Practice deep breathing techniques: Fear and anxiety trigger a natural fight-or-flight response marked by an elevated heart rate, fast breathing, and an intensified awareness of your surroundings. Studies show that deep breathing reduces these effects and helps counteract muscle tension. Techniques range from the very simple—counting to five while slowly inhaling, then counting to five while exhaling—to the more involved. One method involves placing one or both hands just beneath the navel, breathing deeply so that the belly falls and rises in time with each breath.
Try progressive muscle relaxation: Because dental anxiety tends to cause muscle tension, anxious patients often feel stiff or sore during and after their appointment. Progressive muscle relaxation helps avoid this discomfort and has a soothing effect on the mind. Instead of tensing all your muscles at once, focus on tensing and then releasing key muscle groups, such as the muscles in your feet, followed by the muscles in your legs, abdomen, arms, and shoulders.
Note that you needn’t experience anxiety to benefit from the techniques described above. We find that these methods are useful in any stressful situation. If you are one of the millions who does fear dental visits, we encourage you to connect with us. Delaying or avoiding essential dental care could lead to serious long-term consequences for your oral health—now that’s a scary thought!
About Your San Fernando Valley Dentists
At A New Smile Dental Group, our dentists strive to offer each patient individual care and access to the latest in modern dentistry at an affordable price. If you would like to schedule a consultation, contact us at our San Fernando Valley office at (818) 897-5771. We proudly serve communities in Pacoima, San Fernando, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills, Sylmar, and Mission Hills.