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Make Your Next Dentist Visit Less Painful and Stressful

Going to the dentist is never fun. But you can make it less awful if you follow this advice.

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There are few things that can make you squirm in your seat as much as the sound of a dental drill. Even the scraping and digging that a hygienist does during a regular teeth cleaning can be enough to make you want to bolt out of the office. And it’s even more stressful and painful if you have to get a root canal or a tooth pulled. But there are five easy ways to tame the pain and drown out the negative so your nervous system doesn't spring into overdrive.

Before your visit

De-stress. In the days before your dental visit, snack on foods that can help you feel calmer. For instance, cashews are high in zinc, a nutrient that may help fend off anxiety. One study in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights found that individuals who had anxiety had, on average, significantly lower amounts of zinc in their blood compared with people who did not have anxiety. After the subjects with anxiety added more zinc to their diets, they were less likely to experience anxiety symptoms. Another study of children found similar results.

Give your oral hygiene a boost. The fewer tooth-related problems that you have and the cleaner you keep your teeth, the faster your dentist visit will go. And that doesn’t just mean flossing! A pH level under 5.5 puts you at risk for tooth erosion, which wears away the protective outer layer (the enamel) of the teeth and increases your odds of developing a cavity. So — and you’ll like this one — a study in General Dentistry found that cheddar can help fight against cavities. The pH levels in the subjects' mouths were tested before and after eating cheddar cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt. The study showed that oral pH levels after 30 minutes was higher in the cheese group than those in the milk or yogurt group.

During your visit

Rock your headphones. After you greet the dentist and discuss what will happen during the visit, whip out your phone and plug in your ear buds so you can listen to your favorite song, podcast, or audiobook instead of the sound of plaque being picked off your teeth. Just don't turn the volume up so high that you can't make out what the dentist is telling you.

Wear shades. That overhead light that swings over your chair certainly makes it easier for your dentist to see into your mouth, but it can be practically blinding when it's inches from your face. In case your dentist doesn't provide sunglasses, bring your own, which are likely to fit better.

After your visit

Take an OTC painkiller. Stash a bottle of Advil in your purse or pocket. If you're experiencing any tooth pain when you're leaving the dentist's office, take one or two tablets (follow the directions on the bottle) for fast relief.