This post is sponsored by Merion Village Dental, but the experience and opinions are my own.

how I cope with dental anxiety

I know I’m not the first person or only person to struggle with dental anxiety. Going to the dentist is probably one of the more common anxieties out there. But my fear is big and intense, sometimes crippling. I have been scared since I was little, when I had to go to the dentist just to get my teeth pulled because they didn’t fall out easily on their own. I didn’t have a dentist with a good bedside manner and he wasn’t great with kids. I had to be numbed to have my teeth pulled and the needle in my gum was traumatizing. Everything about it was horrible. And I have carried that with me ever since. I dread the dentist. I avoid the dentist. And by the time I finally go, little problems have developed into bigger problems and the visit is much more invasive than would have been necessary. What would have been a simple filling turns into needing a crown. I even had a root canal once, when I was pregnant with Quincy. Talk about traumatizing!

I never had a cavity until I was an adult. Unfortunately I am a jaw clenched and grinder, and years of it meant I had unknowingly whittled down the enamel of my teeth, leaving them less protected and more prone to cavities. Add to that three pregnancies that really did a number on my dental health (which is really common in pregnant women) and now that I’m 40 my teeth are suffering from neglect and abuse, largely caused by my own anxiety during the decade that I was pregnant and busy with young children.

I was three years overdue for a visit to the dentist and I could tell I had at least one tooth that needed attention. But it took my son head butting me in the mouth and accidentally chipping my front tooth to get me to make an appointment. Because I can deal with pain, but a chipped front tooth is my line. Even still, the anxiety building for days before my visit was rough. Here is how I helped alleviate it a bit:

How I cope with my dental anxiety

I did my research.

I’ve never had a dentist I particularly liked. I’ve always gone where my insurance recommended. But we don’t currently have dental insurance (or we didn’t at the time, I have since gotten it for us based on the insurance that is accepted at the dentist I choose based on my research.) I started with a google search of a dentist in the Columbus area that is good for dental anxiety. I then asked for recommendations from local friends and on a local moms Facebook group. I cross-checked any recommendations with any I saw come up online that are good with nervous patients and then checked online reviews. All of that research led me to Marion Village Dental. Then I researched them specifically and I loved their website, their social media presence, and that they specifically addressed dental anxiety on their website and offer medication as an option. I called and found out what insurance they accept (Delta Dental), got myself a plan, and made an appointment for after my plan started.

I was vocal about my fears.

On the day of my appointment I made sure to let my hygienist know right away about my anxiety. She walked me through the process, then talked me through everything as we did it. When I was first taken to a room I was given a “comfort menu” where I ticked off my anxiety level, what things might make me feel more comfortable, whether I like to be given lots of information or very little, etc. There are a variety of offerings to make you feel more at ease, like whether you want a chapstick (I did, because I have always left dentist appointments with splits at the corners of my mouth and dry lips), whether you’d like to watch Netflix during your procedure, if you’d like anxiety medication should you need to have a procedure done, etc. You can even get a paraffin hand treatment while you’re procedure is done (I opted for this too!). Being vocal from the beginning helped me get the kind of treatment I need to make me comfortable and keep me in the chair.

Deep breaths, toe wiggles, taking breaks.

Over the years I’ve learned how to relax through discomfort, whether physical or mental. For me, being at the dentist is akin to being at the gynecologist (except I’m not afraid of the gynecologist). When something is uncomfortable or painful I check in with my body. If I’m white-knuckling the arm rests or holding my breath I remind myself to relax and take some deep breaths. I’ve found that wiggling my toes helps me to shake off tension and work through that “holding your breath” feeling. And when things get too uncomfortable, I ask to take a little break. But deep breaths — in through your nose and make your belly rise, out through your mouth and let your belly fall — is what really helps the most. Doing 5-7 of those helps me signal to my body that I’m ok.

Ask if anxiety medication is available if needed.

My first visit was only for a check-up and cleaning. I need to go back for a couple fillings, a crown, and to have my chipped tooth repaired. I made it through my anxiety for my cleaning without medication, but I’m grateful Merion Village Dental offers anxiety medication (you just need to have someone drive you home from your visit) because if I need a crown or root canal I definitely need it. I’ll be going back to have some of those procedures done soon and will be accepting the medication, so I’ll update on that experience after my visit.

how I cope with dental anxiety

At the end of the day I have to remind myself that I survived and it wasn’t that bad.

What about you? Do you struggle with dental anxiety? So many people said they did when I asked in my Instagram stories after my first visit, and I’m not surprised. How do you cope with dental anxiety (or do you just avoid the dentist altogether because of it?) One thing I’ve realized is avoiding the dentist is not worth it, because I’m only making things worse for myself and harder in the long run. Instead of dealing with a cleaning and a couple of cavities I end up enduring a crown or root canal. I won’t be waiting this long to see my dentist ever again, and that is largely due to the care I received at Merion Village Dental. In fact, I loved it so much I sent my husband later that week for his check-up and then contacted their office to see if they wanted to work together because I wanted to share my experience with them with others and thought a continued partnership would be a great way to do that.

I would love to hear your own dental experiences! What works for you?