5 easy ways to alleviate dental anxiety
Anxiety about visiting the dentist is very common, even among people who don’t recognise this. The problem with feeling anxious about dental visits is that we can be tempted to put off regular dental check-ups, which can compromise our dental health.
Regardless of whether dental anxiety is a big issue or just a small niggle for you, there are plenty of things you can do to relieve your anxiety, naturally and easily.
Here’s five best natural remedies to help with alleviating anxiety about visiting your dentist.
1: Mindfulness relieves anxiety one thought at a time
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of our thoughts, rather than simply reacting or responding to them. When we’re able to separate our thoughts and our identification with them, we have more control in how we choose to respond.
By being more aware of our thoughts as they arise, we’re more able to keep our thoughts focused on the present moment and not daydream about the past, future or fantasise about scenarios we wish were true. By staying in the present moment and by being fully aware of our thoughts and our emotions that are attached to these, we can acknowledge and accept our feelings.
Mindfulness helps us to break the circuit between our thoughts and feelings, so we’re able to see how unhelpful thoughts leave to disproportionately large feelings, such as anxiety about visiting the dentist.
2: Breathing to relieve anxiety
When feeling anxious, your breathing becomes shallower and higher in the chest, which further compounds your feelings of anxiety. Of course, many of us are too caught up in our thoughts to recognise that our breathing has become shallow. Using mindfulness to notice our thoughts about visiting the dentist, we can notice how our breathing may be affected.
Relieve anxious feelings by concentrating on taking long, slow breaths through your nose, softening your belly to help draw the breath into your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
Don’t rush the process of slowing down your breath! You may need to take a few breaths before you can start to slow these down. Once they are noticeably slower, then try introducing a short pause at the bottom of the exhalation and at the top of the inhalation. This breathing technique will bring feelings of calm and peace. It can be done in the dentist’s chair or when anticipating visiting your dentist.
3: Anchoring yourself in the dentist’s chair
When in the dentist’s chair, a highly effective technique to relieve feelings of anxiety is anchoring, which involves directing your attention into the lower half of your body. Begin by focusing on your feet and how they feel inside your socks or shoes. You can wiggle your toes to help direct your attention.
Feel into your toes, the soles of your feet, the tops of your feet, your heels and ankles. Focus all your attention into your feet and ask yourself, do they feel heavy or light? Warm or cool? Tingly or numb?
Now bring in your mindfulness and breathing techniques to accompany your anchoring your attention on your feet. Keep focused on your breathing, your feet, and the sensations in your feet and breath.
You can do this at any time, not only in the dentist’s chair, with your eyes open or closed, while sitting or even while walking around. Anchoring yourself helps to bring your focus and attention into a safe, secure space of your feet, grounding yourself in the process and refocusing away from anxious feelings.
4: Dental hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique which can be highly effective at relieving dental anxiety. Your dentist Martina Lavery can talk you into a hypnotised state where you can more readily access your subconscious mind, and then give suggestions to help you visualise what it is you want to accomplish, such as feelings of relaxation or ease.
Hypnosis is not magic, you don’t “loose control” so long as it’s used by a responsible professional. In fact, it’s impossible to hypnotise someone against their will. When hypnotised, you may been far more suggestible and responsive so that you’re able to easily adapt new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings towards being in the dental chair.
5: Change your thinking; change your brain
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to develop new connections throughout life, transforming its ‘natural’ or ‘set’ tendencies laid down in childhood into new neural pathways of more helpful thinking, beliefs and attitudes.
Changes in our brain don’t only affect what we do, they can also change how we think and feel, including our beliefs, attitudes and feelings towards visiting the dentist.
There are many methods to change your brain using your mind. These include the other four methods detailed above. Another technique that can be hugely beneficial is exposure therapy – simply doing or facing the thing that is causing you anxiety, such as visiting the dentist, and acknowledging that it’s not as bad as you first believed.
Each of these techniques can be highly effective at reducing or alleviating anxiety about visiting the dentist. But they don’t necessarily work for everyone. So give them a go and see if you can’t change your feelings about visiting the dentist.