Get confident and calm by knowing how to Plan and Prepare at home before going to the dentist.
This is the corner stone of the other pillars, and it's the magic formula that supports a successful and empowered dental visit.
The reason for this being that when you make a plan and prepare yourself at home both practically and mentally, your brain gets to calm down because it has an overview of the situation instead of suddenly finding itself in the feared situation.
By thinking through your dental visit before hand, you have a plan, meaning your anxious brain can relax and you can take action much more easily because you know what to do and when to do it. In this way you set yourself up for success and a more easeful dental visit.
When I was a dentist most my patients that were afraid would force themselves to go, hope for the best when seeing me, and then put anything to do with the dentist out of their minds until the next appointment as best they could.
Now this approach obviously works to a certain degree, and I take my hat off to my patients facing their fear in this way every time they came to see me. But what this approach didn't do was to remedy their fear long term.
So if you think of it as going to the gym it was like these patients would go straight for the heavy weights - facing their fear with no preparation. And that could be painful at the best of times. What this pillar then offers is how to prepare and make a plan at home before going becomes the same as starting with the lighter weights at the gym, gradually building strength and confidence from there.
This way you are empowering yourself in the comfort of your own home, rather than handing it over to your dentist to be in charge of your inner calm.
An example of the 4th Pillar:
Tools: Identify fear & Self-Talk
Looks like: Identify what it is you are actually afraid of at the dentist (ex: smells). Then decide on a sentence you will use to talk to yourself about the smell, for instance: "It is just the smell of materials. It does not mean something bad will happen to me".
At the dentist (or on your way there): Repeat your sentence to yourself
Tool: Breathing Exercise
How to do it: Choose a breathing exercise you like that works for you. Start practicing it home several times per day before seeing the dentist.
For instance: Inhale 5... Exhale 5... Soft rhythm.
Also try it out in situations that create stress or anxiety for you outside dentistry. This way you get to get familiar with it before going to the dentist making it easier once you are in the stressful situation. Remember those light weights!
At the dentist (or on your way there): Actively use your choice of breathing exercise - whilst travelling there, in the waiting room, in the dental chair
Tool: Start Stop Signal
How to do it: Know that you can agree with your dentist to use the Start Stop Signal. It is the most effective way to feel safe in the dental chair next to. Agree with your dentist before hand: You will raise your hand when you want them to stop, and lower the hand when you want them to continue.
At home: Let your body try this move out a few times to practice the feeling and getting comfortable with it.
Tool: All of the above Pillars and points contribute to planning and preparing for your visit at the dentist. How does that make you feel?
In addition to this you can include things to make it easier like: Going earlier in the day to make it easier, bring a friend or loved one etc.
Putting it all together is where the magic happens
and your confidence and inner calm grows!