Manhattan Cosmetic Dentist

Your Dentist in New York
Svetlana Yampolsky, DDS
19 West 34th Street #1201
New York, NY 10001
Voice: 212-564-6686
Fax: 212-564-0345


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Dental Phobia and Dental Anxiety:
A Five-Minute Cure

For many people, ‘dental phobia’ or ‘dental anxiety’ prevents them from visiting the dentist, leaving them vulnerable to serious tooth decay and gum disease. They end up requiring extensive treatment, which regular, routine examinations would have prevented.

Dr. Yampolsky has developed a six-step program to help patients who fear going to the dentist. This approach incorporates the mind-body concept where physical well-being can be affected by mental and emotional states.

A Simple 5 Minute Cure for Dental Anxiety

Many of us feel extremely anxious when we think of visiting the dentist. This fear is the cause of procrastination in scheduling dental appointments, missed or cancelled appointments, and difficulty in tolerating procedures during dental care.

Although many dentists will try to convince you that these fears are unfounded, we believe that there are actually many good reasons (even aside from painful past dental experiences) to feel anxious about visiting the dentist. By understanding these reasons and utilizing our simple techniques, dental anxiety can become a thing of the past!

The oral cavity is one of the most tender and most vulnerable parts of our body. We feed ourselves through it and kiss our loved ones with it--the mouth is literally a path to our innermost self. The tongue is the only organ in our body which is fully developed at birth and functions fully during the first 2 months of life. Our infant lives are dependent upon it for nourishment, to communicate and express our feelings, and to explore the world (We all know how infants just seem to put everything they touch into their mouths!). During this early part of our lives, we are helpless and dependent, unable to express ourselves fully, and vulnerable to pain outside of our control.

Does this describe the feelings aroused by a dental visit?!

During dental care, we place our mouths in a very vulnerable position. If we feel helpless, these infant experiences of dependency and vulnerability will arise from our unconscious minds. The result: anxiety.

A visit to the dentist is unlike any other medical experience. We place ourselves in a physically vulnerable position (on our backs), and suspend our usual physical boundaries by allowing the dentist to “invade” our bodies. We render ourselves unable to communicate in the usual way (since our mouths are what’s being tended to), and anticipate pain, while remaining conscious and fully alert. The physical proximity of the dentist may be perceived as threatening, and if we add to the mix the negative associations many of us have with doctors or other authority figures, it is easy to see how feelings of anxiety might arise.

Most of us agree that anxiety and fear notwithstanding, the benefits of timely dental visits far outweigh the cost of avoiding them. How then, do we cope with the anxiety we feel when faced with a dental appointment?

Eliminating Acute Anxiety

This exercise is intended to give you control over the physical discomfort of anxiety.

  1. Before your dental appointment, imagine yourself in the anxiety producing situation

    In order to eliminate anxiety, one must first recognize the feeling of being anxious.

    Sit in a chair in a quiet place and picture yourself in a stressful situation, dental or non-dental. For example, a stressful dental situation might be either anticipating a dreaded dental experience or remembering a past dental experience. A non-dental example might be speaking in front of a large group of people.

    At first, try standing “outside” of yourself and watch yourself in the difficult situation. Then try to experience the situation yourself, looking at it from the “inside”.

    Once you feel anxious, or physical discomfort, go on to #2.

  2. Locate where in your body the anxiety 'lives,' such as a tense neck or back, clenched fists, nervous stomach, unconsciously holding your breath, or dizziness. Close your eyes. Pretend to travel inside of your body and find the place where the stress seems to “live”. This is often the stomach, chest, head, hands or arms. This area feels different and separate from the rest of your body.

  3. Measure the anxiety on a 1-10 scale. Rate the degree of discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. This will allow you to monitor your progress.

  4. This step is important: Explore the “size, shape, borders and texture” of the anxiety.

    The area of discomfort feels different and separate from the rest of your body. Try to isolate it and explore its “borders” and “shape”. Is it “large” or “small”? “Round” or “square”? Localized or diffuse? How deep does it go? All the way to your back? Or is it shallow and just under the surface? Is it a solid, liquid or gas?

  5. Manipulate the anxiety: make it larger, smaller, softer, etc.

    Now that you have a clear idea of the stress you’re feeling, you can do things to change it. First, make it bigger. Take all the concentration you need to do this, and when you’re ready, rate it on a scale of 1-10. (It will probably be less than 10.) Then, make the area smaller, like a golf ball or an egg. Now, you can move it around, forward and back, or side to side. As you begin to gain control of the anxiety, you can begin opening a path from where the anxiety “lives” to your throat. Now, move the spot of discomfort to your throat, then take a deep breath and blow it out of your mouth.

  6. Re-measure the anxiety. Do your 1-10 rating. By now, it will probably feel much less!

These steps give you some control over your anxiety, which enables you to reduce it.

Dr. Yampolsky’s office combines the six-step program with a “holistic” approach, offering:

  • virtual reality goggles to watch movies or meditation videos
  • headsets for music
  • reflexology
  • foot massages
  • aromatherapy
  • soft, warm neck and back pillows and blankets
  • paraffin hand treatment, which moisturizes and applies deep heat to your hands during your dental visit.
  • We can soothe tense muscles using electronic muscle stimulation.
  • The office décor is non-institutional and soothing, featuring tropical fish, floral arrangements and colors and artwork chosen to create a comfortable environment.
  • The entire team is friendly, knowledgeable and sympathetic.

We utilize a variety of educational visual aids that provide clear information about the treatment options. This emphasis on good communication with our patients helps them relax by eliminating uncertainties about their treatment.

Many of our patients tell us they really look forward to their visits with us.

What if these tactics to overcome the fear of visiting a dentist don’t work?

In some cases a step-by-step desensitization program can eliminate severe fear of the dentist. Another option is medication to help you relax for your appointments. Discuss this possibility with your dentist.

“Your relationship with your dentist is based on trust, and you should expect to be treated as an individual. Make requests. Don’t hesitate to ask for special treatment,” advises Dr. Yampolsky. “If you’ve been going to the same dentist your parents used when you were a teenager, but your needs may have changed or you no longer feel it’s a good ‘match,’ ask friends and relatives whose opinions you trust if they like their dentist. You can also find directories on the Worldwide Web with information about dentists in your community or call the dental society in your area.”