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“Focus on the sensation of relaxation, breathe in hope, breathe out fear”… this is a nice mantra and for some anxious people, sayings like this work, but for others it is just not enough.
Let’s look at some other coping strategies for an anxious dental patient:
1. It is common for some people to feel as though they’ve lost control while sitting in the dental chair; especially for those who have a hard time giving up control in a situation…can I use the term ‘control freak?’ I find the best way to deal with these individuals is to explain everything about the procedure to the individual and let them be a part of it. This helps to reduce anxiety as the patient is now involved in the procedure and is more in control over the situation.
2. An anxious patient needs a dentist who can make them feel calm and serene. The dentist needs to be compassionate and sensitive…bed side manner is the key. If an anxious patient is looking for a new dentist, they may want to check out the dentist’s reviews on the internet...these are reviews that the patients have written themselves. They speak volumes about the personality of the dentist, the warmth and friendliness of the staff and the atmosphere in the office.
3. Focus on your breathing. When you are anxious and stressed, your breathing is shallow and rapid. Chances are hormones are released that are produced in a typical ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This will only enhance your anxiety and worsen your situation. In these instances, you need to apply coping strategies and relaxation skills such as breathing…you need to bring yourself back.
4. Distract yourself. As in number three above, this is possible by thinking of other situations such as a vacation or resting in bed to calm you down.
5. In addition, there are other ways to make you more comfortable I.e., listening to your favorite music, watching television. You can wear dark sunglasses if you find the lights too bright. We even have blankets in the office for patients who may feel a little cold. Combine this with some scented candles and you’re all set. The more at home you feel, the better you will do.
6. At times however, the above techniques are not enough and the patient may need more help. In these instances, we offer nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) or medication such as valium. These are additional ways to take the edge off, so that we can go ahead with the work that needs to be done…for the majority of people, we can manage without this.
Walking through the door into the dental office is a big step. The good news is, we can help you feel at ease.
Yours in gentle dentistry,
Dr. Robert Axelrad