According to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, as many as 40 million Americans avoid the dentist out of fear and anxiety. They are reminded by a bad experience they had when they were kids, so they loathe the thought of visiting a dentist again. They anticipate pain even when they are coming in just for oral prophylaxis or teeth cleaning. They abhor the sterile smell of a dental office.

Some of these reasons are weird and strange, but people coming in either for a root canal, an invisible retainer, or simple teeth cleaning would often feel the need to calm themselves down before they can go through with the procedures. As a result, oral health problems crop up, which leads to more visits to the dentist and more dental procedures.

Talk with the Dentist About Your Fears

Dentists know that most people fear to undergo dental procedures. They are aware of their reputations, so they do their best to alleviate the anxiety and fears that their patients feel when they are told they need to undergo a dental procedure. Talk with your dentist regarding your concerns, and they will be willing to walk you through the process. The dentist will discuss the operation, anesthesia, and recovery period. If you are medically diagnosed as having extreme anxiety, the dentist can administer a higher dosage of pain-free medicine so that you won’t feel any pain at all.

Make Sure You Have a Ride

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can drive yourself after a dental procedure. The anesthesia alone will slow down your reflexes, disabling you to respond quickly and correctly in traffic situations. Ask a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member to drive with you to the dentist, wait for you, and drive you back home.

Schedule the Procedure Wisely

dentist chair with xray of teeth

Pick the best time for your dental procedure. You can choose a weekend or early morning during the weekday—just make sure you’re on leave from work. Don’t try to squeeze this into your normal schedule because you might feel pressured to get the procedure over with, and that will just create more anxiety on your part.

Give Yourself Time

Arrive at least 20 minutes before the procedure is scheduled. That will give you enough time to calm yourself and complete last-minute paperwork. The extra time will also allow you to speak with the dental staff; maybe they can help sate your fears further.

Don’t Eat, Drink, or Smoke

If you are going to be given a general anesthetic or if the surgeon is using an intravenous (IV), you will not be allowed to eat or drink anything for eight to 12 hours before the surgery. If you need to take medication, however, you will be allowed only a small sip of water. You also cannot smoke 12 hours before the dental surgery and 24 hours after.

Undergoing a dental procedure is a stressful time for anyone. Get as much support as you can from your family, friends, and even your dentist. If possible, ask someone to stay with you the night before and after the procedure so that you will have someone to talk to and take care of you.