Meditation for Dental Anxiety

22nd November 2019 by

It may sound a little odd putting the words ‘meditation’, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘dentistry’ in the same sentence, but studies show that meditation can help patients with dental anxiety.

We give a lot of tips to our patients on stress reduction and how to reduce anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist, so we thought we’d share some advice on how to help you keep calm at your appointment.

So, what is meditation?

Meditation is using a technique to train awareness or consciousness. It helps to focus the mind. We spend so much of our day in our minds, attaching to thoughts, most of which are repetitive. Often going over something that happened in the past or may happen in the future. Meditation helps to keep us in the present.

How does meditation help?

For most people living in a busy city, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is constantly activated. The sympathetic nervous system is there to protect us with the “fight or flight” response.  However, with it constantly activated we are always in a low level of stress.  Meditation helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps to relax the body. This leads to a reduction in stress levels.

How do I meditate?

Meditation can be practised in many different ways, both with the eyes open and closed. You can focus the mind on:

  • An object such as a chair or a spot on the wall in front of you
  • An activity such as the movement of the breath going in and out
  • A word, mantra or sound

There are many apps that can help you get started. As well as this, there are many courses which has the benefit of a teacher who can help you if you encounter difficulties.

Helpful Apps

Why not try downloading a mindfulness app to get you started. You’ll find that there are plenty out there to choose from, but we recommend app such as Calm or Headspace. Our dentist James Goolnik has kindly shared his link to a FREE trial, which can be found here: https://www.calm.com/calmhealthtrial

There is a free app called Insight timer https://insighttimer.com that has lots of guided meditations and talks led by the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and teachers.

The important thing to remember is that it takes time to learn the art of meditation. Just as planning to run a marathon will take months of training! Take the time to try one technique, ideally 6-8 weeks and if does not work then try another. If you would like to know more please contact James Goolnik or Sameena Choudhry.

Breathing techniques

If you find that a mindfulness app isn’t helping you as such, it might be worth focusing solely on your breathing. Reduce your stress response by learning some easy breathing techniques, which you can take into your appointment with you. Deep breaths in and even longer breaths out can help let go of any tension in the body. Relax your shoulders and unclench your jaw whilst breathing and you’ll be able to notice a big difference. There are plenty of helpful breathing techniques on YouTube which will help you too.

On the way to your appointment

If you can, close your eyes and meditate on your commute. This will regulate your breathing and heartbeat and give you a calm sense of being. If you can not close your eyes focus on a spot with your eyes open. Interesting on the underground at rush hour!

At the dentist

Time to put your meditation and breathing techniques into action. Sitting in the waiting area of a dental practice can be seen as the most daunting part of the appointment, especially if you suffer from dental anxiety.

Get comfortable and relax into the chair. Let the weight of your body sink into the chair and keep your muscles as loose as possible. If you don’t want to close your eyes, find a spot in the room where you can soften your gaze. Avoid looking at televisions or bright lights.

A technique we love is taking a deep breath in for four seconds, then exhaling for eight. Concentrate on letting your breath out very, very slowly and as gently as possible. Repeat this as many times as you need.

Grounding is another technique that may help you keep calm whilst waiting at the reception area. We recommend trying the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Once seated in the waiting area, name the following:

• Five things you can see

• Four things you can feel

• Three things you can hear

• Two things you can smell

• One thing you can taste

This technique will also be useful if you need to feel grounded once you’re in a comfortable dentist chair.

Teeth clenching and grinding

Studies have shown that mediation and mindfulness help reduce clenching of your jaws during the day and also offers deep and more relaxed sleep, reducing grinding (bruxism) at night.

We would love to help you achieve a healthy mouth and make your dental visits as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
Please speak to the Bow Lane team for more information

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