Dental phobia is a real thing – so, if going to the dentist makes you uncomfortable or queasy, know that you are certainly not alone. In fact, “as many as 40 million Americans avoid the dentist because of fear and anxiety,” according to Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. However, it’s also possible to overcome. Here are some of our favorite tips for overcoming dental anxiety so you can keep your oral health in tip top shape.

Learn more: Easing Dental Fear in Adults

1. Speak up! 

Sharing your feelings can make a world of a difference. Once your dentist knows how you’re feeling, your team can better assist you and be aware of your needs and concerns. Make sure to:

  • Tell the receptionist when you make your appointment. Let her know that you’re nervous about your dental visit and you can possibly share any previous bad experiences and ask for help on coping strategies. 
  • Don’t be scared to ask questions. Sometimes it’s the unknown that’s the scariest.
  • You can set up a signal with your dentist. Maybe it’s raising your hand when you need a break or feel uncomfortable. 
  • If you’ve ever dealt with pain from a local anesthetic, let your dentist know right away. Talk with your dentist beforehand about your pain experiences so your dentist can make you more comfortable. 


2. Distraction is good! 

If you can take your mind off a dental exam or procedure and distract yourself, it can be very helpful. Maybe bring headphones if the sound of a drill bothers you. You can listen to your favorite music or maybe an audiobook or podcast. You can also try squeezing a stress ball or try a fidget gadget to keep your hands occupied. Many dental offices also have TVs and magazines that can occupy your attention. 


3. Try Some Mindfulness Techniques 

Try and relax your mind – this is where relaxation begins. Deep breathing exercises are great for calming and clearing your mind. 

  • Count your breaths. While you’re waiting for your appointment to begin, or if you have a break, inhale and exhale slowly in the same number of counts. Do this five times.
  • You can do a body scan – relaxing each part of your body one section at a time. Start at the top, at your head, and work your way down your body. Relax your muscles and try to release any tension. 

A few more tips

  • Avoid caffeine and sugar before any appointments – these can make you jittery and more anxious. Instead, eat a high protein meal. 
  • Choose an appointment time that is the least stressful for you. 
  • Arrive on time for your appointment – try not to arrive too soon.


The Connection between Dental Anxiety and Depression

If you’re feeling blue, your teeth might be, too. According to Delta Dental, recent research suggests that people with anxiety or depression may experience a decline in oral health. Understand the connection and learn what to do if it’s happening to you.

The link between oral and mental health is hard to ignore. Data showed:

  • almost two-thirds of people with depression reported having a toothache in the last year
  • half of all people with depression rated their teeth condition as fair or poor
  • strong link between periodontal (gum) disease and mood conditions like stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness

The most obvious explanation for the link comes from the behavioral effects of stress, depression and anxiety. People with these conditions sometimes lose focus on oral health habits, which can lead to significant dental issues. Depression, for example, can cause people to brush and floss at irregular intervals, skip dentist visits, have unhealthy diets and self-medicate with smoking.

Learn More about the Link Between Oral Health and Mental Health

Increased Cortisol Levels Can Lead to Oral Health Issues

Biologically, depression and anxiety cause several factors that impact oral health. The stress they create manifests itself in the body as a hormone called cortisol. As cortisol levels increase, the immune system gets weaker. This can leave you vulnerable to mouth conditions like gum inflammation (gingivitis) and gum disease (periodontitis). In addition, medications prescribed for depression and anxiety can cause dry mouth. This lack of saliva can mean that food debris, plaque and bacteria aren’t getting rinsed from teeth easily, which can make it easier for cavities to form.

Anxiety, in particular, tends to be associated with several oral health issues. If you have anxiety, you’re more susceptible to:

  • canker sores
  • dry mouth
  • teeth grinding (bruxism)

As with depression, these issues may be attributed to a lack of oral care or as side effects of anxiety medication.

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Adams Dental Group Can Ease Your Dental Anxiety

The mouth is a great window to the rest of your body, so when you visit us at Adams Dental, we can take a peek into your overall health during your regular dental cleanings and exams. This could save you money, time, and health down the road. When your dentist can catch a problem early, there’s a much better chance of figuring out what’s going on and treating it early, with a higher success rate. Oftentimes, dentists can detect warning signs before we experience any symptoms. Actually, oral health is an easy way to boost your immune system, learn more HERE.

Luckily, when depression or anxiety takes a toll on oral health, there are ways to fight back. The simplest step you can take to maintain your oral health is to brush twice a day, floss daily and schedule regular dental appointments with Dr. Roberts and his team at Adams Dental Group. Keeping up these basic oral health habits can go a long way to keeping your mouth in tip-top shape.


Local dentist, Travis A. Roberts and his experienced, friendly team at Adams Dental Group offer affordable family dentistry and gentle dental care in the Kansas City, KS area. We have two locations that are conveniently located and offer appointment times Monday through Friday to meet your needs. At Adams Dental Group, we provide most dental services, from family and general dentistry to specialty procedures, including dental implants, dentures, endodontic or root canal treatment, teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry and much more. We accept most dental insurance plans and offer affordable financial solutions for any budget. Call us at our West location (913) 296-8030 or our East location (913) 621-3113 to schedule an appointment.

August 10th, 2021

Posted In: Services | Procedures

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