Dental anxiety and phobia not only affect your oral health but also your social and emotional well-being. Research reveals that more than 9-15% of adult patients in the United States, avoid dental care altogether due to dental anxiety and phobia.
This is because anxiety, the response to a perceived threat within an unfamiliar environment, becomes heightened within the dentist’s office.
Dr. Schmidt and her NYC team are all too familiar with this anxiety that dentistry causes in some of their patients. As a prosthodontist, she is continuously learning about the best techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to help her patients manage, and reduce, their fear of the dentist.
What is CBT?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on the understanding of how your thoughts and emotions influence your behavior. Anxiety is the body’s innate response to fear and uncertainty. In some people, it presents with a debilitating force, whereby it negatively impacts their overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life.
Psychotherapy, such as CBT can help minimize dental anxiety and phobia.
It focuses on reducing the impact of negative thoughts and feelings (anxiety), that affect behavior (refusal), towards a perceived threat (dental care). These behaviors become repetitive patterns.
CBT Techniques To Help Reduce Dental Anxiety And Phobia
Identifying negative thought patterns that perceive dentistry as a threat, is the key to reducing dental anxiety and fear.
Using mindfulness techniques to regulate your thoughts and feelings is one of the key goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It ultimately prevents the negative behavioral response to negative thoughts and feelings and helps you to develop cognitive reframing.
Try applying these techniques when thinking about your next dental visit.
- Identify your negative thoughts and reframe them:
An example of this could be the fear you experience when you think of walking into the dentist’s office and sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Instead, reframe your thoughts to focus on the peace of mind that you want to experience after your dentist visit.
- Practice a new coping skill:
Think about music that makes you feel calm or reminds you of happy days. Play this music on your way to the dentist, and while waiting in the dentist’s waiting room – allow it to calm your thoughts, while practicing breathing techniques.
- Set yourself a goal:
It takes time to overcome dental anxiety and phobia. Allow yourself time, and be patient with yourself. Speak to your dentist and ask if it is okay for you to visit their waiting area a few times to practice mindfulness in the space that causes anxiety. Sit in the waiting room for 5 – 10 minutes while listening to calming music with your goal being to walk out of the waiting room feeling relaxed.
- Journal your fears:
Write down the thoughts that you have when thinking about your next dentist visit and reframe these thoughts into questions that you can ask your dentist. Knowledge is a powerful tool that can minimize anxiety that’s caused by unrealistic negative thoughts.
Consult With Our Highly Trained Dental Team in New York
Dental fear and anxiety can be managed with the right support. Contact our NYC office to schedule an appointment to discuss your fears with our experienced team of professionals who have helped many anxious patients.
Your oral hygiene is our priority. We are eager to help you overcome your dental anxiety and phobia, and CBT can help with this.
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