Using Headphones at the Dentist to Overcome and Manage Dental Anxiety

If the mere thought of a routine dental exam fills you with fear and leaves you trembling, you’re not alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between 9% to 15% of Americans avoid visiting the dentist because it makes them anxious. However, avoiding the dentist (even for routine maintenance) can lead to a litany of other issues, some even life-threatening. Semi-annual cleanings can help reduce the chance of plaque buildup, tooth decay, permanent stains, and gum disease. Dentists can also catch early signs of oral cancer, hypertension, and heart disease.

using headphones at the dentist for dental anxiety dentist with mask on and working on dental patient

Ultimately, avoiding the dentist can lead to more intensive procedures and higher medical bills. While the thought of finding a serious medical condition or paying higher bills may give you more anxiety, there are a variety of coping methods people have found to be successful, including recommended products from AcousticSheep LLC. Read on to learn about how one person used SleepPhones® flat headphones to minimize her dental anxiety, as well as what causes dental anxiety and a few tips that may help reduce it.

SleepPhones® Customer Shares Result of Using Headphones for Dental Anxiety (Plus Her Calming Spotify Playlist)

Debi: I had a dental procedure done today and the periodontist was floored by my SleepPhones®. It was so nice to not need to worry about uncomfortable earbuds or wires getting in the way, and the doctor was impressed that they were flat. Thank you for helping me relax during that stressful time.

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: That's great to hear! What model do you have?

Debi: Wireless (but not Effortless).

SleepPhones wireless headphones for dentist in midnight black fleece click to buy now

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: What do you listen to at the dentist?

Debi: I was listening to 1970s easy listening. I was going to listen to my bore-friend on Sleep With Me, but I wasn’t sure how painful the procedure would be. (I didn’t want a negative association.) The periodontist would keep asking what song was on, so the staff had fun reminiscing.

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: Haha! That's great. So were you able to hear the periodontist/any assistants when they talked to you about the procedure?

Debi: Easily! That’s why I love SleepPhones®! At a low volume, I can still hear what’s going on around me. As a mom, I want to be sure I’m not completely tuned out at night.

And speaking of the Sleep With Me podcast, I like to listen to it very quietly—lower than the lowest setting on any headphones. With SleepPhones®, I can adjust the placement of the speakers so I can get the precise whisper of a volume I need.

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: The Sleep With Me podcast is the best and we hear so many people pairing that with SleepPhones®. Is that how you heard of SleepPhones®? Scooter is one of our favorite partners.

Debi: Yes it is! I surreptitiously forwarded the discount code to my husband so I could receive SleepPhones for Christmas 2 years ago.

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: And yes that's one of the most important elements of SleepPhones®. The customization allows for perfect listening in different scenarios, and we wouldn't want folks to not be able to hear a fire alarm or crying baby at night.

Would you say you generally experience dental anxiety? What app is the 1970s easy listening on?

Debi: Yes, definitely. And it was Spotify—I have a playlist I call Yacht Rock/80’s easy listening that has about 1,200 songs from the late ‘60s to early ‘80s that I built in Spotify Premium. The stuff that played during the procedure was things like Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, James Taylor…

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: Hmmm wonder if we could link to your playlist on our page? Would that be okay with you?

Debi: I love making playlists to help with anxiety. I’ll see if I can find a link. I currently have it open for sharing. Some family and friends already follow it.

Darlene from AcousticSheep™: Thank you for sharing!

Click to play playlist for dental anxiety 70s easy listening with Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, and more created by a SleepPhones customer

Why Do People Fear the Dentist?

Simply put: It’s different for everyone. The Dental Health Services Research Unit found that the root of most people’s fear stems from other causes. These include traumatic experiences, “vicarious learning” from other people’s stories and media, and certain personality traits, conditions, and disorders. For others, it’s as simple as the potential pain of dental work or the mere thought of needles and drills. Whatever the case may be, be sure to communicate these thoughts and fears to your dentist.

You may be surprised at the creative solutions he or she comes up with to alleviate your worries.

If it’s the potential cost of a procedure that’s causing anxiety, speak up and ask for an estimate. Your dentist should be able to ballpark the costs. If it’s expensive, the dental practice may even offer a monthly plan to spread the payments out.

And if you’re worried the dentist or hygienist will judge you for putting off care or neglecting to floss, don’t be. They’ve seen it all, and they simply want to help.

Suggestions to Quell Dental Anxiety

Thankfully, most people who dislike dental visits find ways to make the experience more pleasant. Here are some ideas to keep your anxiety at bay and your pearls shiny white.

Find the Right Dentist for You

Take stock of your own anxieties and consider what matters most to you when it comes to seeing a dentist. Then, ask friends and family what they like about their dentist and dental hygienist, as well as what they enjoy about their experience most. Learn more about potential dentists by searching online or talking to staff on the phone. You may even consider stopping by a potential dentist’s waiting room to get a feel for the practice’s ambiance. Searching for the right doctor can take time, but it’s worth it to find the right fit for you.

Communicate Openly

Remember: Your dentist wants to put you at ease because it’s much easier to provide care when you’re relaxed. Share any negative past experiences with your dentist, and don’t be afraid to ask him or her to accommodate specific requests. If it’s difficult to explain what is troubling you, tell your dentist that, too. The right dentists have helped others overcome their fears, and they can help you, too.

During an exam or procedure, you may find it helps to use hand signals to communicate with your dentist. If so, you’ll want to work that out with your caregivers in advance. And keep in mind, it’s okay to indicate that you need a quick break to regroup so you can continue.

After the procedure, consider talking to your dentist about what you appreciated in the care you received, and what (if anything) still concerns you. Your dentist will appreciate the feedback, and it will help you frame the experience as well.

Take a Friend Along

If possible, consider enlisting a friend or family member to provide reassurance during the procedure. In addition to emotional support, a trusted companion can be another set of ears to remember special instructions the dentist may have.

Create an Affirmation

Mantras and affirmations are positive statements that can help you reframe negative thoughts and positively direct your attention. You can repeat a calming phrase in your mind during your dental work. For instance, “I am well,” or “This too shall pass,” or “I love my smile” are phrases you might want to keep in mind to keep you calm and centered.

Listen to Music

Your favorite tunes can put you in a good mood and may even give you a sense of agency over the procedure. For ultimate listening comfort, try SleepPhones® headphones. In addition to music, you can listen to ocean waves, white noise, or meditation to help you relax.

Reward Yourself

Another strategy for making dental visits less onerous is to associate them with a treat afterward, like buying a new album or taking an extra 30 minutes to enjoy your favorite podcast. Even a small reward, like listening to your favorite comedian or a new song, may help you think of the experience in a positive way. Of course, you’ll probably want to avoid especially sugary treats so you don’t undo all the time you spent at the dentist.

Smile More, Stress Less

Conquering dental fear isn’t easy, but it is necessary for good health and a beautiful smile. If you’d like to treat yourself to the world’s most comfortable headphones to use at the dentist, try AcousticSheep LLC’s SleepPhones® headphones. The luxuriously soft headbands contain thin removable speakers that can play any type of music, audiobook, or meditation to help you find your happy place in the dentist’s chair.

Learn more about managing anxiety at our "Anxiety Resource with Tips for Anxiety Relief" page.

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