Imagine that you’re sitting in a hammock in the shade, the lull of ocean waves breaking in the background. You feel warm, safe, and comfortable. The only thing you have on your mind is relaxation, and all your senses remain calm.

Now, imagine feeling that level of serenity at the dentist. Seem impossible? Don’t feel alone. Many people struggle to find inner peace when faced with the dentist’s chair.

If you experience feelings of anxiety or nervousness that prevent you from going to the dentist on a regular basis, you may, unfortunately, hurt your teeth in the long run. Read our blog for five suggestions that can help you overcome your phobia and feel relaxed at your next dental visit.

1. Bring a Friend

The normal procedures of a dental visit may make you feel isolated and helpless. The next time you schedule an appointment, bring a friend or family member into the examination room with you. Even the presence of someone you trust can help assure you that the dentist has your best interest in mind.

2. Keep Communication Open

Tell your dentist about your dental phobia beforehand. That way he or she can take extra care to communicate with you about all cleaning and examination procedures. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask questions or have your dentist explain why you need to take fluoride treatments or redo your x-rays.

If you have a particular aversion to a single procedure, like needles for example, ask your dentist for alternative methods of pain relief. A considerate dentist will explain all of your options and try to find a solution that works and makes you feel comfortable.

3. Establish Clear Signals

Some of the time during your visit to the dentist, you may not have the ability to speak. But in order to communicate when you have instruments or fluoride in your mouth, talk to your dentist to set up gestures or sign language that will streamline communication.

Not sure what signals to use? Here is one example: tell your dentist that you will raise your arm or clap your hands if you feel any pain or sensitivity. Non-verbal communications will help you feel empowered and safe during your stay, and they’ll allow your dentist to meet your needs.

4. Pay Attention to Your Senses

Some people experience anxious feelings at the dentist because the noise of the dentist’s drill triggers feelings of panic. Others have a negative reaction to the temperature of the dentist’s office.

If you realize your own sensitivity to these extraneous details, take matters into your own hands. Bring a blanket or pillow with you into the dentist’s chair to make your position comfortable. If the noise of the dentist’s office offends you, bring music and headphones-or ask your dentist to turn on the radio or TV to mask the sound. Slight adjustments to the environment can make a world of difference to your emotional state.

5. Plan Ahead to Avoid Dental Emergencies

If you’ve had an episode of fear or anxiety at the dentist before, you may feel uninclined to schedule another appointment. But when you avoid the dentist, you put your teeth and gums at risk for more serious conditions.

So if you just can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone and schedule a visit, ask the receptionist to schedule your visits for the next six months or even a year. When you put several appointments on your calendar all at once, you’ll have the financial incentive to show up, and you’ll avoid costly, painful damage to your smile.

When you replace your negative dental experiences with new positive reinforcements, you’ll learn to manage your dental anxiety. Eventually you can establish a relationship of trust with your dental professionals so they can put your fears at ease and give you the treatment you need.

For more information about how to have the best possible experience at the dentist, keep reading our blog.