Do you brush your teeth twice a day, every single day, thoroughly and effectively? Do you use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, just like you’re supposed to? Do you floss daily to get plaque out from between your teeth? Even if you do all of these things right, you could still be putting your oral health at risk if you don’t see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
Unfortunately, for those with dental anxiety, scheduling a quick cleaning just isn’t that easy. Even a simple checkup can be a terrifying enough prospect for people who fear the dentist that they may never make the appointment at all.
When you miss plaque on your teeth — an inevitability, since your oral hygiene tools and capabilities are naturally less than those of your dentist — it eventually hardens into tartar, which harbors bacteria and leads to tooth decay. Once that plaque turns into tartar, the only one who can get it off is your dentist. And of course, your dentist also performs screenings for oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay.
If your fear is keeping you from these much-needed checkups, here are some tips on getting through a cleaning and getting the care you need.
Prepare For Your Appointment
Before you even go in for your appointment, there are things you can do to prepare both yourself and your dentist to ensure that your appointment goes more smoothly.
First of all, your dentist is not your enemy. In fact, they can be your best ally in the battle against dental anxiety. If you speak to your dentist about your fears, they can help you overcome them. For some people, learning the details of the procedure or having their dentist speak aloud what they’re doing during the cleaning can help reduce anxiety. For others, it may be helpful to work out a nonverbal stop sign, like raising your right hand, so that you can put your cleaning on pause at any time to take some deep breaths, have some water, and just relax.
Before the appointment itself, try not to dwell on the upcoming cleaning. You might consider scheduling something to occupy your mind before your appointment, like meeting up with a friend or getting some work done.
During the Appointment
Once you arrive for your appointment, there are steps you can take there to calm yourself, too. It could help to have distractions during the cleaning, so you could talk to your dentist about wearing headphones and listening to music or a podcast during the cleaning to keep your mind off of it.
Still worried that a dental cleaning is too much for you to handle? Sedation dentistry could be the answer. Your dentist will simply give you a pill that you’ll take before the appointment. During the cleaning, you’ll feel relaxed and calm, and won’t experience any stress or fear. Later, you may not remember much of the cleaning. It’s a safe, easy way to conquer your fear and get the dental care that you need.