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Home > Dental Conditions > Dental Anxiety > Take Control of Dental Anxiety
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Take Control of Dental Anxiety

Overcome dental anxiety by changing how you think.

Have you ever noticed that the closer we get to an expected or scheduled event, the more worried we can get? That goes for happy as well as dreaded circumstances. Buying a car or your first house, events most people would label pleasant, can trigger as much worry as a less-than-joyful trip to the dentist.

Webster's II defines worry as to feel uneasy or troubled. Well, if you're over the age of 12, that's probably not news. We've all felt worried from time to time. There are lots of different outside triggers for worries: an exam at school, a meeting at work, personal finances, the economy. Sometimes they're big worries, sometimes small. What some people would see as insignificant, someone else would view as all-important. What most, if not all, worries have in common is that they point to the future, what I like to call pre-viewing-attempting to predict, view or guess what will happen.

Perhaps a more accurate meaning for the term "worry" would be to reveal where worry comes from. I like to use "worry thoughts" instead of simply "worry" because the term targets the cause of the feeling. The one and only reason we feel fear or worry is because we're thinking worry thoughts--thoughts that contain some element of fear or danger. It's impossible to feel calm, comfortable or at-ease while you're thinking about fear. And, the opposite is just as true: you can't think secure thoughts and feel troubled, insecure or worried.

When we're worried, upset or anxious there are really four separate components to that reaction: feelings, sensations, impulses and thoughts. Out of those four, we only have direct control of two of them: the thoughts and the impulses.

So let's imagine that it's the evening before your scheduled appointment. If you've been busy at home or at work, you may have done pretty well in warding off the worry. Keeping busy has a way of pushing worry aside, although it doesn't really resolve it. If you don't take the time to examine and diffuse the worry thoughts, they will pop back into your mind, and cause that feeling of worry that Webster talks about.

It's a sure bet that most of your worries revolve around either "What if..." or "I wonder...," two of the powerful fear producing statements (thoughts) we can think. When you feel worried, the key is to stop and listen to what you're thinking, then replace those insecure, fear-filled, worry thoughts with more secure or realistic thoughts. And, if need be, do it one thought at a time.

Here's a sample of how that might work:

Worry thought: What if I start feeling really pinned down in the chair?
Secure/realistic thought(s): I may feel trapped, but realistically I am not. I am not strapped down. I could get up if I need to or really want to.

Worry thought: I don't like feeling trapped.
Secure/realistic thought(s): This is just an uncomfortable feeling, and I will be able to get up eventually. I'm not stuck here forever.

Worry thought: What if start gagging?
Secure/realistic thought(s): Well, gagging makes noise, and whoever is working on me will be to hear the sound and recognize that I'm having a problem.

Worry thought: What if the novocaine doesn't take?
Secure/realistic thought(s): If it doesn't, I'll feel it. Then I'll tell them right away, and they can give me more.

Worry thought: I worry about germs. I wonder if all those instruments are clean?
Secure/realistic thought(s): I am going to a reputable dentist who is careful about hygiene. They do sterilize all the equipment that reaches my mouth.

For more generic fear thoughts like; "I wonder how long I'm going to have to sit there? I hope the sound of the drill doesn't bother me too much," or "What if I'm so nervous afterwards that I don't think I can drive home?" tell yourself, "I don't know." You really don't know!

It's interesting that most of us have been trained to think of "I don't know" as a frightening thought, when in fact, it can be a very positive and secure statement. Think of it this way: if you don't know the outcome, chances are that it could be a positive outcome. And realistically, worry isn't going to change the outcome one bit. Worry can't prevent anything from happening in the future.

Remember, worry, the feeling, is caused by worry, the thoughts. That's as true as 1+1 = 2. It always has been and always will be. One worry thought will create a miniature feeling of worry or concern. Repeated worry thoughts will cause more intense and more long-term worry feelings. If we want to change the feeling, we have to change the thought that's producing it.

The method is to catch the insecure worry thought and move it aside with more secure thought, each and every time one leaps into your mind. Use this technique and you'll be able to keep your concern from spiraling into worry, no matter what the subject of your worry happens to be.

Want a great dentist who can help you with all of your dental needs? Call us at 1-866-970-0441 today.

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