October is National Dental Hygiene Month

anxiety dental visits less stress sommerfly tips

Hello again from Sommerfly!  

We are excited to hear from Hollie Marron, occupational therapist, one of our newest Sommerfly blog contributors. She brings you tips this week to help with increasing your sense of calm for dental visits.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. For some of us adults who experience dental anxiety and sensory sensitivities (or both which is quite common!), just thinking about a visit to the dentist can bring on anxiety, dread, or even total avoidance. Here are some tips to help you take charge and prepare for your next dental visit: 

  1. Use your sensory smarts to choose your dentist. If you don’t feel comfortable with your 

current dentist, consider looking for a reputable practice that provides comfort amenities. Inquire with the office manager about how the dentist and hygienist help patients tolerate procedures and manage sensory sensitivities and anxiety. Find out about the range of medical options, such as sedation with nitrous oxide/“laughing gas.” I know from personal experience that it is worth the Novocain injections to prepare for a twice annual cleaning since I am most bothered by the vibration, pressure, and sounds, not the needles! And, before the dentist even gives me the Novocain, the hygienist applies the topical lidocaine all over the gums so that the needle doesn’t hurt as much. This is one of the things that makes my dentist sensory friendly! 

  1. Use sensory supports to help distract, occupy, and calm yourself! Bring your favorite 

Sommerfly product. The Relaxer travel-sized weighted blanket and The Wipe-Clean Relaxer were designed with the dentist in mind! If you don’t have your own yet, request that you use the x-ray apron to help settle your nervous system. Our small, portable Wristful Fidget and Focus Fidgety could occupy nervous hands. 

  1. Sound: Bring or borrow music with noise reduction headphones, especially if the sounds of vibration, metal, or scraping are particularly intrusive. Keep the device in your hands so you can control the volume and let the hygienist know that you may not be able to hear her unless she gets your attention. 
  2. Sight: Wear your prescription glasses if that helps you feel more oriented or even 

sunglasses to help manage the bright lights. If the site of the tools make the anxiety worsen, try closing your eyes. If seeing the tools helps you anticipate sensation and lowers your anxiety, let the hygienist know you would like to see the tool before it goes in your mouth. 

  1. Smell: Before entering the office, do some deep breathing in through the nose while smelling your favorite calming lotion, herbal tea or essential oil. If it is okay with the office, bring in a tissue or cotton ball with a drop of lavender oil, as an example, and take a couple of breathing breaks during the procedure. 
  2. Movement: Take the time to exert some energy and release anxious stress in the morning prior to your appointment! Before entering the office, walk for a bit and gently stretch the neck and shoulders which tend to tense up in the chair. 
  3. Finally, speak up for yourself and communicate your needs. If you’d rather not have suction and instead can spit or rinse your mouth, let the practitioner know! If all you can tolerate is a basic cleaning and would rather not have polish or flossing, opt out! As you get more comfortable advocating for yourself, I hope you find that the hygienist and dentist are responsive to your comfort needs! They may even be interested and getting their own Sommerfly Wipe-Clean Relaxer weighted blanket for the office! 

For information about Sommerfly products please visit www.sommerfly.com

Take good care,

Hollie Marron, OTR/L Occupational therapist

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