Visiting the dentist can strike more fear in some patients than swimming with sharks. The phobia is sometimes so strong that patients avoid necessary medical treatments. If you have a deep fear of going to the dentist, know that there are some treatment options and preparation techniques that can help you get calmly into that dentist chair:
Sleep dentistry involves the dentist giving you a sedative so that you feel calmer during the dental procedure. The level of sedation can vary from mild enough to drive afterwards to general anesthesia. Generally, a dentist will try to stick with the milder forms of sedation unless the procedure is surgical in nature.
One of the most common types of mild sedation is nitrous oxide, which is administered as a gas through a facial mask. Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, is popular because it's easy to adjust the dosage and the gas wears off quickly once the dentist turns off the supply.
A mild to moderate form of sedation involves the use of a sedative hypnotic oral medication. This type of prescription medication promotes a feeling of deep relaxation that can result in sleep. But unlike general anesthesia, the dentist can easily wake you up when the procedure is finished. You will likely want someone on hand to drive you home from the appointment until the sedative completely wears off.
If you don't feel comfortable taking a sedative when the dental procedure doesn't require it, you might want to start learning stress management tactics. Meditation has taught many people how to feel calmer in stressful situations.
The internet is a great resource for beginning meditation. Simply search for articles or videos labeled as guided meditation for managing stress or overcoming fears. Guided meditation videos are particularly good if you're just starting out because a practitioner essentially leads you through the process.
Frequent practice with meditation allows you to use the tools even when out in public and in stressful situations such as the dentist chair. If you need a moment to focus your concentration, explain what you're doing to the dentist and ask to have a couple minutes alone before the procedure.
Some dentists have specialized training in handling patients who are less than comfortable or cooperative in the dentist chair. This training includes learning how to gently guide the patient through the process ahead of the procedure so that nothing comes as a surprise.
This type of dentist usually has training in dealing with patients who are physically uncooperative such as those with severe mental disabilities. So if your "fight or flight" reflex kicks in and you try to jump up during the procedure, the dentist will know how to get you back in the chair while preventing injury to yourself or the staff.