Don’t Fear the Cleaner: How to Get Over Your Fear of the Dentist
about the author
Lawrence Fung is a dentist, entrepreneur, and one of our expert contributors here on the hello blog. After earning his DDS at the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry, Lawrence served as a General Dentist in the US Navy for four years. Since then, he’s mixed his dental credentials with his love for startups by founding SiliconBeach.Dental, a new breed of dental clinic in LA that leverages tech to make high-quality care more accessible and friendlier than ever before. When he’s not challenging the dental status quo, Lawrence reps his beloved Trojans, crushes hotdog-eating contests, and loves yodeling.
Photo: dentist and patient with hello toothpaste
You’ve been counting down the days with dread. Trying to think of plausible reasons to cancel, to delay, to put it off until a later date when you’ll feel ready. And yet here you are, pushing open the door with a shaky hand…and stepping into the dentist’s waiting room. …Where someone at the front desk no doubt greets you warmly and notices you’re breathing like you just ran a marathon. If this little scenario feels a bit too close to home, we understand. But the good news is that having anxiety about going to the dentist is really common. And when you arm yourself with the right toolset, you’ll be able to cope -nay- thrive in this potentially stressful environment. Take our hand – we’re here to help calm your chattering teeth.
You’re in frightfully good company
One of the toughest parts about any type of anxiety can be the feeling that you’re all alone – like there’s something “wrong” with you, and uniquely so. So then you clam up and don’t want to share your fear with anyone else, which just exacerbates things. Well, how about some hard data to help put your mind at ease? You see, we recently did some research on this exact subject: Our survey showed that over 20% of people rate themselves as very uncomfortable visiting the dentist – and over one third of folks said they’d made an excuse not to visit the dentist. So the reality is that probably every 4th or 5th person who walked through your dentist’s door today was feeling nervous – your dentist gets this and they’d love to help put your mind at ease (it’s in their best interest to!) So if you’re open with them about your nerves, they’ll help you loosen up. Plus, then you won’t have the “secret” of your nervousness bottled up inside either (as if they didn’t notice you flinch when they put your dental bib on.)
How to get over your fear of the dentist
Ok, so it’s best to be up-front about your anxiety when you get to the dentist’s office. Don’t worry – they’re not going to give any judgement. But what about pregame prep? Here are some great and simple anti-anxiety calisthenics that you can try.
- Deep Breathing: Nothing like an anxious situation to get the ‘ole lungs into overdrive. Get ahead of this by scheduling in time 5 or 10 minutes before your appointment to enjoy some deep breathing. You can just sit there parked in your car and get into the zone.
- Meditation: Similar deal – set aside a little time in your car before your appointment to put yourself into the present moment. Often our fear can stem from thinking about something that happened in the past, or worry about something that could happen in the future. By putting yourself more squarely into the present moment, you won’t be focused on wildly unlikely hypotheticals. You’ll just be a person reclining in a kinda comfy chair getting their mouth looked at.
- Music: If you like to groove out to tunes, it might be time to turn your dentist visit into some good-quality headphone time. Music can relax, distract, and even remove the potential for that one-sided dentist small talk. Just don’t try to start singing along, your mouth is currently receiving attention, remember?
Finding help to deal with anxiety about going to the dentist
If you feel you need a hand in managing your fear of the cleaner, don’t be afraid to get professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist. Short-term, targeted therapy can be helpful for some people with a strong aversion to the dentist’s chair. And it’s totally worth getting sorted out. Because you only get one mouth – yours is beautiful and we want it staying that way 🙂