Natural Sedation Dentistry
How to relieve dental anxiety without chemicals or drugs:
Dental anxiety is one of the major contributors to poor oral health. People put off going to the dentist because they’re afraid of the shot, the pain they might feel, or the instruments the doctor will use, among other things.
Many dental patients opt for using nitrous oxide and other forms of chemical sedation to help relax them through their dental appointment. Some others choose hypnosis instead and enjoy the same benefits of the medical relaxation without the side effects and grogginess associated with the chemicals.
Here are some things you can do to enjoy natural sedation on your own:
Create a resource: This is something you can use to counteract the possible discomfort you might feel when you're at the dentist. Start by remembering a time or situation you really loved, enjoyed, etc. Maybe a moment in time when you felt invincible… you’ve had those… and then choose an action such as squeezing your fist, and while you think about that great time, squeeze your fist (or whatever you choose) and do that a few times.
With a few repetitions you’ll be able to create a conditioned response that gives you those feelings when you squeeze your fist in the same way on the day of your test. Obviously it’s important you always match the single action to the same desired response.
Distract your mind: Many will opt for music or audiobooks on headphones to distract their mind during their dental appointment. This can work fairly well but your best chance at staying distracted comes from keeping your mind active and not just using the sound as background music. Yeah that means listening to the lyrics intently, doing the mental exercises on an audiobook. For best results no singing with dental instruments in your mouth! 🙂
Redirect your thoughts: When I’m at a dental office helping someone get pain free anesthesia I will often have them think about something else that’s happening in their body just before and during the shot. The result is that they don’t feel the needle. If you think about it right now you might begin to notice that sensation on your hands… when you do, just pay attention to whether the sensation is the same on both hands or if the feeling is different on each.
When you’re about to get a shot you can direct your mind to some other body part (like I just did) and do what you can to keep your thoughts on that part. Get curious and make it fun by thinking about all the details you can notice when you really pay attention.
Touch and science: There are different types of sensation a person might feel. The differences are important because one can counteract the other. Acute pain (like others might have felt during a dental appointment) happens somewhere in your body (in this case probably in your mouth) and the signal of pain travels from there up to your brain, which tells you “Ouch, this is supposed to hurt”. This is important because acute pain has to decussate across the spine (travel from one side to the other) in order to reach the brain while soft sensation doesn’t. To put it simply, acute pain and soft sensation run on a separate network.
This makes soft sensation reach the brain faster than acute pain and it’s the reason we naturally rub a spot we’ve just hit, and it softens the sensation of pain. If you’re extra anxious you may be able to have a friend with you to help distract you and rub your hand, foot, etc. so you can focus on that sensation instead of the pain from the needles or the drill.
Use your memory and imagination: The things we can vividly remember or imagine can create the same responses in the brain as the chemical sedation options. In essence, if you’ve ever used nitrous or you can imagine what it would feel like to use it, you can spend a few minutes before your appointment thinking about that feeling, and imagining you’re taking a few breaths of the laughing gas or taking some Valium to help you relax. For best results do that in as much detail as possible.
Rehearse success: Your mind is amazingly powerful and the right type of focus is going to give you the best results. Think about what happens when you allow yourself to worry about something… it’s paralyzing, isn’t it? But have you ever worried about something and when it came time it never became an issue after all? It’s nice when that happens but it doesn’t change the suffering you put yourself through while worrying.
When thinking about your upcoming dental visit, imagine yourself going through the whole process successfully, feeling empowered the entire time and ending your appointment relaxed and refreshed, feeling great. Rehearse success instead of failure and when you need it, the feeling of success will be what’s familiar and therefore it will come easier.
All this is great but…
Sometimes keeping your mind occupied when you hear the drill or feel the needle can be challenging. That’s where I come in.
I can help you set yourself up for success with natural sedation dentistry by creating a strong resource with you, and teaching you how to make the conditioned responses I just talked about happen automatically. I can even be with you during your appointment by phone, Skype, or in person if we happen to be in Lake Tahoe or San Diego at the same time. Of course phone or Skype make distance a non-factor and work like a charm.