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Anxiety is a common problem and something that affects many people for many different reasons. For some, going to the dentist can be a reason to feel anxious; but it doesn’t have to be.

The first and most important step should be to find a dentist you trust. Your dentist should listen to you, be understanding of any problems you have, be sympathetic to your concerns and explain clearly how he or she will treat you and restore your smile. A dentist who does not make you feel listened to and reassured, is not the right dentist for you.

A good dentist will be empathetic and know how to put anxious or nervous patients at ease, by using techniques such as educating patients to make them less fearful of treatments they may not understand, or employing the Emotional Freedom Technique to remove negative associations. There are also many ways that you as a patient can reduce your own anxiety, prior to and during a visit to the dentist. You could:

  • Try 7/11 breathing. This breathing technique involves taking slow, deep breaths and making your inhalation last for 7 seconds and your exhalation for 11 seconds, which stimulates the body’s natural relaxation mechanism.
  • Read online reviews of your dentist. If you’ve found a good dentist, other patients’ online reviews will reassure you that you are in safe hands. Reading other people’s positive experiences and opinions reinforces to us that we have made the right choice and should boost your confidence.
  • See your dentist frequently rather than leaving long gaps between visits. Even if you do not require any treatment, you can always pop in for a chat or to ask a question – a good dentist will make time and be pleased to see you, and these regular trips will reinforce positive feelings that will lower your anxiety levels. They have the added benefit of building up relationships and trust between dentist and patient.
  • Share your past experiences and fears with your dentist and the dental staff, to enable them to understand your preferences and avoid anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Ask your dentist any questions you have; being involved in the process and understanding the treatment you are having, will make you feel more at ease.
  • Schedule your appointment for a time when you are not feeling rushed. A good dentist will be able to offer you flexible appointment times, such as in the evening when you are not under pressure to hurry back to work.
  • Bring someone with you when you see your dentist, as this can often be reassuring and help to alleviate your anxiety; and a good dentist will be just as welcoming and take just as good care of your friends and family members as they will of you.
  • Keeping yourself hydrated and make sure you have something light to eat before your appointment, as research shows that body response to stress is higher when you are hungry. Refreshing lemonade and protein-rich foods have been shown to aid relaxation!

With the help of your trusted dental care team, you should soon be able to look on a trip to the dentist as a relaxing and even an enjoyable experience.

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