I mean, no one will EVER read this post because NO ONE fears the dentist right? The only fear is of not showing up, and hurting your dentist’s fillings (ok sorry, overused bad joke).
Well, just in case you're one of the rare few that might shiver at the thought of your dentist’s gloves, white coat, and smell of Dettol in the office, don’t fret, this article is for you! :))
I don’t like my colleagues very much myself. They use strange tools that look like they could hurt, and the sound of the drill drives me nuts. Sometimes I look at myself garbed in my surgical outfit, and yes, I can look quite scary!
So I'm writing this article based on personal hacks, and what I've seen that works!
1. Bring your favourite music playlist and noise cancelling earphones
“Music soothes the soul” says Matthew Bernstein. I'm sure many people will agree! Research even shows that certain kinds of music can induce calming alpha brainwaves to quiet your mind.
Indian and Celtic music are my favourite relaxation tunes, but this is really personal. If Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” or Bieber’s “Sorry” gets you relaxed, go ahead and make a playlist of bopper songs. Whatever floats your boat! And the added benefit of using earphones is that it cancels out the sound of the drill. It really really helps.
2. Bring a stress ball or something squishy with you
Stress balls are super popular because they are so fun to play with. If anything, manipulating the stress ball in your hands during treatment takes your mind off the stressor (aka the dentist) and distracts you. Check this site out for additional stress ball benefits.
Have you also noticed that kids recently have this obsession with slime? The slime that’s the rage nowadays is almost like play dough. So it’s also less messy and feels almost like a squishier stress ball. Slime sites on Instagram can have 1 million followers!?!!? So just secretly borrow/steal your kid’s slime for your next dental visit.
3. Find a dentist that you trust
Most Dental phobias stem from a really bad experience when you were young. Patients recount mortally brutal stories to me, and I think I could become dental phobic just listening to them. It’s like everyone has some brutal dentist anecdote to share!!
To avoid meeting the next savage dentist, ask your friends if they know anyone kind and gentle. Then make that leap of faith. There are really nice dentists out there #iswear
4. Ask your dentist not to lie you flat in the dental chair
I find that my patients usually feel the most freaked out when they lie completely supine. I think it’s due to the feeling of that loss of control, and allowing a stranger to invade your personal space.
So if it's your first meeting with your dentist, just ask that he or she doesn’t lie you flat. It will force him into a really bad working posture, and he may end up with a crick in his neck (dentists don’t hate me for suggesting this), but it will help a lot for your first visit. Once that trust is established, you will be then be able to lie supine comfortably!
5. Just breathe
Taking deep breaths in the dental chair can help distract you as well. Deep, slow and long breaths activate the Vagus nerve, the nerve that's responsible for activating the relaxation response. Just combine with all the other hacks above and you will be as chill as a cucumber! (I hope!)
6. Ask for sedation options
If all of the above hacks still don’t work and you feel nauseous at the thought of the word “Dentist”, you can always ask for sedation options like laughing gas to help calm you.
Your dentist can also bring in an anaesthetist to sedate you for more complex procedures. General anaesthetic is also a good option if you are dreading having your wisdom teeth removed, or fearful about your dental implant surgery!
A visit to the dentist never seems fun, especially when you've had a really bad personal experience when you were younger. Many of us were victims of that era, when teeth were just managed as that. Teeth.
Dentistry has changed a lot since then. Dentists are now taught a lot more patient management skills in school, our equipment is a lot more sophisticated, and the needles are super fine so you don’t feel the injection very much at all. In addition to these innate dental environmental improvements, try these hacks and see if they work for you!! Good luck! XO
Dr Marlene Teo is a Periodontist (gum specialist) at TP Dental. She holds a joint appointment as Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the National University of Singapore. Dr Teo passionately believes in leading a holistic and healthy lifestyle to boost immunity and combat periodontal disease.