How to Relax When Seeing the Dentist

How to Relax When Seeing the Dentist

Dr. Ross Chiaramonte on overcoming dentist phobia. Sponsored Content from Reputation.CA

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Reputation.CA

Dental phobia or odontophobia is estimated to plague as many as 35 million Americans, according to the 2012 book The Fearless Smile: Overcoming Dental Phobia. The anxiety generated from booking an appointment and visiting a dentist can be so extreme that in some cases patients have gone decades without seeking out basic dental care. Researchers in the UK have found that dental anxiety appears to plague middle aged people more adversely and is more prevalent in women. Researchers also discovered “of 100,000 people those who’d had their teeth cleaned by a dentist or hygienist twice or more over two years had a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease and 13 percent lower risk of a stroke.”

Despite the many proven benefits of good oral hygiene, not only for dental health but overall health, it is estimated that 35 percent of Canadians do not visit the dentist regularly. Approximately 15 percent of those report having some varying degrees of anxiety related to visiting the dentist. “We now know that there is significant fear and anxiety towards dental care within our population. Within Canada, the most recent study shows that 5.5 percent are very afraid, and 9.8 percent are somewhat afraid,” a recent University of Toronto report states. “However, in Ontario, where numerous fear and anxiety studies surrounding dental treatment have been conducted, the literature displays a higher value at roughly 10-17 percent.”

Dr. Ross Chiaramonte owns and operates the River Side West Family and Cosmetic Dentistry clinic in Owen Sound, Ontario and sees patients in his practice who suffer from dental anxiety. “Some patients have a mild fear of the tools and procedures, probably because it is something we don’t experience every day,” Dr. Ross Chiaramonte says. “Others have a more severe fear, they have usually had a bad experience with a previous dentist or procedure.”

Meditation is highly recommended by mental health experts and dentists as a proven way to decrease tension in high anxiety situations. Having a repetitive mantra or implementing deep meditation can help the mind relax and alleviate pain and stress. Meditation can also help abate anxiety by stabilizing your heartrate and breathing, while simultaneously oxygenating your body and creating an overall relaxed, and peaceful feeling.

Alleviating fear and calming patients can be achieved through a variety of methods. Some dental offices offer massages and spa services, while others offer a variety of sedation techniques. At River Side West Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Chiaramonte believes relaxation and comfort begin as soon as patients enter the building. “We want to provide the highest level of comfort for patients and can have one of our staff wait with you and discuss any concerns you have,” Dr. Chiaramonte said.

Through his more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Chiaramonte offers these tips to help keep dental phobia at bay.

  • Book appointments early in the morning to decrease the amount of time you have to dwell on it;
  • Practice relaxed breathing techniques and meditation the night before and morning of the appointment;
  • Tell your dentist you have dental anxiety and have the dentist explain exactly what will be going on;
  • Feel free to ask for a short break if you need to gather yourself;
  • Bring a friend to hold your hand if anxiety starts to mount;
  • Have a distraction; keeping your favourite playlist on a low volume in your ear buds can be just the thing you need.

Dental techniques, tools and services have come a long way over the last decade and many dentists are devoted to ensuring patients have a great overall experience. As the numbers of those suffering from dental phobia decrease it is apparent more people are implementing a regular dental visit as a necessary part of a positive overall health regime.

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