Ok, I have to confess. I’m sitting here staring at the computer trying to write and all I can think about is the fact that our recent PCS means that I have to find a new dentist. For some of you this may not be a big deal, but for me this is MONUMENTAL!
My dilemma: A full blown fear of the dentist.
For years I just “didn’t go”. I found whatever excuse I could to avoid the dentist at all cost. I flossed, scrubbed and rinsed like a fiend – just so I wouldn’t have to go. And then a silly jolly rancher and I went to battle – and I lost. So I had to suck it up and make the call to find a dentist that could treat an adult who was literally freaking out. Thank goodness the TRICARE Dental Program representative at MetLife was an angel who heard my panic and reluctance, and suggested Dr. B, a network provider.
Dr. B. was amazing, and as a military spouse finding a provider who took the time to deal with a crazy milspouse, was refreshing. He along with his staff took the time to ensure that I was treated for my broken tooth, subsequent root canal and thorough cleaning AND kept me from losing it in the chair.
They assured me that I wasn’t alone in my fear and instead of rolling their eyes calmly offered me some chamomile tea and shared some insights that really helped me get over my fear of the dentist.
3 Tips for Getting Over Your Fear of the Dentist
Tip 1: Understand The Root of the Problem (No pun intended)
Take the time to understand what is really going on, begin to make sense of past experiences and identify the actual stressors and feelings that went along with them. By understanding where the actual fear comes from (a previous bad experience) you can get to the root of the issue so you can put it into proper perspective and begin to allow a new positive experience to replace the old negative one.
Tip 2: Stop Projecting
Dr. B helped me see that my fear wasn’t all in my head – in fact he pointed out that my past experience with a bad dentist was a legitimate reason for my intense aversion to the dentist. But he also suggested that all dentists aren’t bad and in fact my issue was that I was projecting my fears onto situations that hadn’t even happened. By learning to stay in the moment and not allow myself to project how awful every dental visit would be I slowly became able to alleviate my fears and keep my appointments.
Tip 3: Use Calming Techniques & Visualization
Some people call it woo-woo – I call it survival. Before any action that involved the word dentist (be it appointment, tool or person) I spend some time deep breathing and visualizing myself relaxing on a beach in Fiji with a cute cabana boy bringing me incredible umbrella drinks. (hey it works for me).
I literally breathe in as deep as I can (a proven way to calm your nervous system) hold it for a few seconds and then slowly release or a do a few downward dogs in the parking lot. By taking the time to ground myself, I get centered in reality, am able to focus on Tips 1 & 2 and can allow myself to be in the moment rather than allowing my past experience to mess with my head.
As I write this, I realize that getting to the root of our fear, acknowledging that it exists and then developing coping skills to help get through it is a topic I share about frequently on my blog. But NEVER in all my years of dealing with a dental phobia did I see that I had the tools right in front of me.
It goes to show you that no matter what the situation, we can all move on (or at least get through it) if we are willing to face our fears and acknowledge that we are not powerless over them. I doubt I’ll ever be OK with going to the dentist, but I can see that by using these tips I will be able to get over the irrational fears associated with it 🙂
P.S. If you’ve recently moved to a new area or haven’t scheduled an appointment since your last PCS, don’t forget to visit the Metlife TRICARE Dental Program website here. You can easily search for a dentist or specialty provider (like orthodontics) who accepts the TRICARE Dental Program coverage. For more information visit the Metlife TRICARE Dental Program website at www.metlife.com/tricare, their Facebook page www.facebook.com/MetlifeTDP or call the customer service center at 1-855-638-8371.
— Motivational speaker, military lifestyle blogger and author Judy Davis – The Direction Diva has a passion for inspiring the military community “One Moment at a Time”. Connect with her, Read her blog and get her new book Right Side Up: Find Your Way When Military Life Turns You Upside Down at http://thedirectiondiva.com/