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How to relax before, during your appointment

June 20, 1997

American Dental Association offers the following tips to help you relax before and during dental treatment:

- Share your feelings with your dentist and dental hygienist. Let them know you are fearful, tense or anxious so they can tailor their treatment and pace to your needs.

- Set aside a stress-free time for your dental visit, when you won't be rushed, physically strained or troubled by other concerns. A Saturday or early morning appointment may be less stressful than rushing to see the dentist right after work.

- Get acquainted with the dental staff, as being sociable can establish trust and warmth that can help allay fears and reduce tension. Ask a friend or family member to accompany you to the appointment if it makes you feel more at ease.

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- Try to identify specific fears and concerns. Pinpointing the cause of your anxiety will help you understand and control it better.

- Get a good night's sleep, and eat a light breakfast the day of your appointment. To allow unconstrained movement, wear loose, comfortable clothes and avoid ones with tight collars.

- Schedule short dental appointments by having different procedures performed on different days, if possible. If you feel any discomfort during treatment, motion the dentist to stop through a prearranged signal such as raising your hand, blinking or nodding.

- Use visualization to make yourself feel more confortable and relaxed before and during a dental visit. For instance, before your visit, imagine yourself sitting calmly and confidently in the dental chair while the dentist examines your mouth and soothingly talks to you. You also can focus on a relaxing scene from a favorite vacation spot or activity and remember it during treatment.

- Practice distraction and relaxation techniques to take your mind off treatment and reduce tension. Practice slow, deep, rhythmic breathing, counting each breath as you go along, or focus on soft music or a colorful poster.

Another common relaxation technique involves systematically tightening and then relaxing the major muscle groups in your legs, hands, arms, shoulders and neck.

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