It’s no secret that a huge number of people find even picking up the phone to book their next appointment or even stepping through the surgery door a real challenge for so many different and personal reasons.
So what does your experience of the dentist trigger? Do your experiences relate to past or even childhood experiences, previous dental traumas, social stigma, feeling out of control, anxiety, fear of pain, or perhaps you’re not even aware of why your body starts automatically enter panic mode at the very thought. The point is that sometimes there isn’t even logic as your body has a memory of it’s own and can respond in many different ways to anxiety and stress.
The truth is that it’s brave to put your wellbeing and health into someone else’s hands- especially when you may feel out of control in as you lie in the dental chair. All you can do is trust!
However, what if you could overcome your dental fears? What if you could feel empowered to know that you also have control?
Here are 8 tips to help you to confidently attend dental appointments and to begin to positively challenge your fears:
- Identify your fears and triggers:
Firstly, it’s very important to understand why you’re fearful about going to the Dentist’s. Does your fear stem from a past trauma or experience, social and cultural stories with which you grew up with, feeling out of control, fear of pain, or perhaps you’re not aware of what your stomach turns or you feel faint at the very thought of sitting in a dental chair? Whatever you reasoning, if you can identify it and your triggers, then you are identifying the root causes.
- Talking things through:
Once you’ve identified what the key cause of fear might be it’s really important to either explore your experiences with a therapist or coach, and to find a way to see your current experiences as positively transformative rather than a negative one. Things to consider are can you manage and move on from your fear or does it overwhelm you? If you can manage it but you’re not sure how to then coaching can help you to move forwards. If your crippled with fear then it might be the sign that you’ve encountered a deeper trauma and you may need to seek some therapy.If you feel able to confide to your dentist or hygiene therapist about your fears then this will really help them to become aware of your needs and the approach/ support and treatment plan, which can be tailored for you.
- De-stress and take control even before you attend your appointment
When your body reacts to fear danger or risk, it’s as though there are multiple alarm bells sounding as your heart race increases, you may sweat, feel dizzy, become irritable and defensive, or you may even suffer from TMJ and conscious or unconscious grinding which can lead to headaches.So why not give yourself the opportunity to de-stress and relax 20 minutes before an appointment? By calming your body, mind and spirit you are gently calming and retraining your mind and thoughts as well as preparing you to feel more in control as you enter the dental room.Here at Roy Morris Dental Excellence, the journey isn’t just about the end result, it’s about creating a safe dental sanctuary where you can feel relaxed that you’re in safe hands from the reception area to the dental chair, to reviews and right through to your next appointment. A good metaphor is to think that by providing a calm space, you are essentially creating the right soil from which to experience a successful experience and treatment environment.Other suggestions you might like to consider include:
- Meditation and Visualization: You can find some great apps such as Calm to help you to feel calm and relaxed. You may even find that you can even drift off and listen to these visualisations with earphones whilst you’re in the dental chair. A good tip is to close your eyes and visualise what a positive dental experience actually looks like and feels like to you! What sounds or smells are around you, what is the environment like, who is around you? How do you feel? What is happening for you to feel calm and in control?
- Positive Affirmations: Prep yourself weeks/days before with positive affirmations about yourself, the dental journey and generally feel positive about your life again.
- Create a Music playlist: Some patients find it really helpful to create either a calm or an empowering music playlist to listen to either before their dental appointment or whilst they are in the dental chair. Consider what music gives you a sense of calm, inner confidence and helps you to feel empowered
- Release your excess nervous energy and stress: It’s important to release any negative or trapped nervous energy or stress before your appointment. Although it’s difficult to avoid a stressful day, journey to the appointment and your fears, it’s important to also release them (even if it’s for 10 minutes prior to your appointment) Otherwise, you may find that your dental fears become overwhelming, out of proportion or that other stresses from other areas of your life are getting mixed up and projected into your dental journey.Good ways to relieve your stress pre and post appointments include: sport (please seek advice from your dentist if you’ve had surgery), creativity and surrounding yourself with positive people (rather than negative people).
- Challenge your limiting beliefs
We all grew up with individual experiences and stories and these experiences so often become a part of our personal life scripts which can dictate how we experience and respond to situations, ourselves and others. Therefore, it is really important to be curious as to your own stories about the dentist, what holds you back? What negative thoughts come into your mind? Then it’s important to challenge these thoughts with questions such as:
- What is your fear?
- How is it holding you back?
- How true is it that you will have a negative experience compared to a -positive one?
- What if this were a positive experience rather than a negative one?
- What do you need to happen in order to move forwards?
- How can you feel more empowered and good about yourself and your dental journey
- What does a positive dental experience look like and feel like to you
- What needs to happen in order to actually experience this?
- Seek Advice, Ask Questions and Build Trust with your Dentist, Nurse or Hygiene Therapist At Roy Morris Dental Excellence, the whole team has a wealth of experience building strong trusted bonds with patients and they understand how imperative trust is between client and practitioner and how it can impact the successful experience of your dental journey and treatments.
It’s really important you have a good relational dynamic with your dental team and to seek advice and ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel relaxed and calm.
- One Step at a Time
It can be really tempting to focus simply on the end goal and of course this is the end result! But in order to get there it’s important to be kind to yourself and your dental success to take smaller steps. Why not map out your journey with larger goal points along the way and smaller steps in between to help you to manage your feelings and dental journey.
- Focusing on your end goal and transformation
Of course it’s vitally important to have your end goal in mind and to be open to any agreed changes. Consider how you will look and feel different! How could this treatment increase your confidence and improve your mindset in your every day life?
- Reward Yourself
Some patients may remember that as children lollipops or toys were handed out at the end of every dental appointment. By rewarding your efforts you may have a very different experience of the dentists.Consider this how might you feel if you rewarded yourself after every appointment reward yourself with a nourishing treat such as a long bath, a warm/cold drink, 30 minutes of ‘me time’, seeing friends or family, going to the cinema, having a nourishing lunch. Or if you’re going back to work, why not plan something that week in your diary as a reward for going to the Dentist’s.We hope these tips help you to feel confident about booking your next step to a healthier, more confident smile!Samantha is an accredited Confidence and Success Coach (IAPC&M) As a Coach she works with a wide variety of national and international clients. She is also a qualified and registered Integrative Art Psychotherapist (HCPC reg. and MBACP reg,)
- Identify your fears and triggers: