It's probably safe to assume that few people jump for joy at the thought of visiting the dentist. But did you know that up to 40 million people experience debilitating fear and anxiety at the thought of seeing a dentist? Dental phobia can even prevent people from getting the treatment they need to keep their teeth and gums healthy. Fortunately, a weighted blanket may be able to help.
What Is Dental Phobia?
When it comes down to it, most people would probably rather skip dental appointments if they could do so without any consequences. For a lot of folks, the dentist is a minor inconvenience but not really all that bothersome.
For others, however, the prospect of visiting a dental office fills them with dread. Many people are so anxious and frightened, they have to slowly talk themselves into going. They might even schedule an appointment, only to cancel it at the last minute — or come up with an implausible excuse for why they have to reschedule.
In other words, dental phobia is more than just a standard fear. As WebMD states, “Dental phobia is a more serious condition that leaves people panic-stricken and terrified. People with dental phobia have an awareness that the fear is totally irrational but are unable to do much to change it.”
Sound familiar? If your heart pounds and your palms sweat every time you get one of those little dentist officer reminder cards in the mail, you might have a dental phobia.
The source of dental phobia can vary. For some people, the fear of pain is the primary symptom. Other people dislike receiving injections (especially in their mouth), and others panic at the thought of someone putting instruments in their mouth. Dental phobia can also strike when people have an aversion to feeling vulnerable or crowded.
5 Tips for Managing Dental Phobia
While there is no magic pill for curing dental phobia, the good news is it can be managed. There are a variety of ways to fight back against dental phobia, and while you may not ever volunteer to sit in the dentist’s chair, you might be able to schedule your appointments without cringing or suffering sleepless nights.
Tell Your Dentist About Your Fear
When we’re deeply afraid of something, it’s normal to feel ashamed about it. For adults, being afraid of the dentist can be embarrassing. The thing to remember is that phobias don’t work like normal fears, and they can cause a physiological reaction that makes your heart race and your brain think you’re in serious danger.
Although you might be tempted to keep your phobia to yourself, don’t be afraid to tell your dentist about it. Dentists, dental hygienists and other dental professionals are very familiar with dental phobias — after all, they see them all the time! Most dental offices have techniques and tricks for making exams and treatments more bearable, and they’ll work with you to make your experience a good one.
Your dentist may also offer you sedation, which means you’ll be in a twilight sleep during your cleaning or procedure. For some patients, this is a great way to manage the fear of dental treatments. If you’re interested in sedation, talk to your dentist about your options.
For some people, the typical noises of a dental office is enough to trigger their phobia. The sound of someone working inside your head can put your teeth on edge (literally). And, of course, no one likes the sound of the dreaded drill!
If dental office noises seem to bring your phobia roaring to life, headphones or earbuds might help. Let your dentist know you’d prefer to listen to music, then pick a playlist that puts you at ease. You can even find podcasts and apps that offer deep breathing exercises, guided meditation or soothing sounds.
Bonus: Wearing earbuds will also probably stop your dentist from asking “how was your summer?” while your mouth is filled with instruments.
Bring a Support Person
Sometimes, simply having a friend nearby can make you feel better during a scary situation. While most dentists endeavor to make their offices as comfortable as possible, it’s still a medical environment with lots of equipment and sharp tools. When you have a phobia, even walking through the door can be a challenge.
Having a support person can make it easier to endure your visit. Choose someone who knows about your phobia and is sympathetic about your fears. Some people take a spouse or partner, while others feel better with a good friend, parent or even a neighbor.
Treat Yourself After a Successful Dental Visit
Congrats! You bravely conquered your dental visit — now it’s time to treat yourself! Whether it’s a spa day or a shopping spree, pick a reward that makes you look forward to your next visit.
If you’re the parent of a child who suffers from dental phobia, you can turn a dental visit into something fun. Plan your child’s appointment around a movie day or a visit to the park or playground.
And if your reward of choice is an ice cream cone or piece of cake, don’t worry — we won’t tell the dentist.
Use a Weighted Blanket or Wrap for Dental Phobia
Ready for a dental phobia management tip you probably haven’t heard of? Weighted blankets, which are usually about 10 percent of a person’s body weight, may help you feel less anxious and afraid during a dental procedure. Weighted wraps and lap pads may also help.
While weighted blankets have long been used to help manage the symptoms of autism and sensory processing disorders, research has shown that they’re also effective for reducing anxiety.
Weighted blankets work by applying a form of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation on the body. If you’ve ever felt a boost of happiness or contentment after getting a big hug or snuggling under a down comforter, you may have already experienced the benefits of deep pressure touch therapy.
In fact, some people report feeling soothed and content as they lie under the heavy x-ray protector drape or shield at the dentist’s office. This overall feeling of peace and relaxation is deep pressure touch stimulation at work.
With a weighted blanket, you can enjoy that feeling whenever you want. Researchers say that “the application of deep pressure, through for example weighted vests and blankets, has been reported to produce a calming and relaxing effect…”
If you’re reluctant to take a blanket to the dentist’s office, you can also try a weighted wrap. At SensaCalm, we make weighted wraps in two sizes and weights. Our three-pound wrap measures 12 inches by 36 inches, and our five-pound wrap is 18 inches by 36 inches. You can order them in a large variety of colors and patterns.
For kids, weighted lap pads can be a great way to get deep pressure touch therapy on the go. Smaller and lighter than a weighted blanket, they drape over the lap. Our weighted lap pads are 2 pounds and measure 12 inches by 18 inches. They come in a ton of fun colors and patterns, so your child will want to use one. If your little one has a dental phobia, a weighted lap pad may make appointments easier and less stressful for everyone.
SensaCalm: Weighted Blankets for Anxiety and Dental Phobia
If you have dental phobia, a weighted blanket or wrap may help you face your appointments with confidence. Order your custom weighted blanket today, and don’t forget to check out our weighted wraps for something a little smaller and more portable.
Questions? We’re here to help. Just give us a call at 855-736-7222 or use our contact form to get in touch with one of our knowledgeable team members.
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Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.