Tips For Coping With Your First Dental Visit After Childhood Sexual Abuse
According to studies, roughly 20 percent of female dental patients experience sexual abuse as children. For these patients, dental visits are often incredibly frightening as they summon memories of the loss of control felt during the abuse. If you’ve been avoiding going to the dentist because of a history of sexual abuse, here are some tips to help you quell your fear and anxiety so you can get the dental treatment you need.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Well before you schedule your dentist appointment, experiment with various relaxation techniques. Your goal is to find a technique that can effectively slow your heart rate and relax your breathing and muscles in times of stress. Relaxed breathing exercises, visualization, and both passive and progressive muscle relaxation are all techniques that you can perform whilst sitting in your dentist’s chair.
Schedule A Preliminary Visit
If you’ve been avoiding the dentist for a long time because of your history of abuse, do not schedule a cleaning for your first appointment. In order to combat your fears, you’ll need to establish trust with your dentist before they attempt to actually work on your teeth. Book an appointment just to talk with your dentist. Although it can be difficult to disclose the events of your past, filling your dentist in on your special needs as a patient could make all the difference in your level of comfort once treatment starts. If your dentist isn’t willing to book this preliminary visit, they aren’t the dentist for you.
During your preliminary visit, let the dentist know what is likely to trigger unpleasant memories for you. If loud noises and sudden movements bother you, ask that, during treatment, they explain the procedures they’ll be performing carefully and let you know before they turn on any noisy dental equipment. If laying down in the dental chair makes you feel exposed, you may be able to negotiate the tilt of the chair and request a body covering. In most cases, your dentist will be happy to oblige any special requests you may have, as long as they’re aware of those requests.
Establish A Stop Treatment Signal And Test It Out
Anxiety can affect speech patterns, so it’s important that you establish a signal with your dentist that can let them know that you’ve become scared or anxious during treatment. Stomping your foot, holding up a finger, or blinking rapidly will all work — just be sure that your dentist knows that when you give this signal, you expect them to stop all treatment, back away from your body, and give you some time to regroup.
Don’t be afraid to give the signal to your dentist the first time they work on your teeth, either, even if you aren’t feeling especially fearful or anxious at the time. Knowing and seeing that your dentist is more than willing to cater to your stop treatment signal will help you feel more in control during future visit.
Request Less Privacy
Some survivors of childhood sexual abuse perceive their dentists to be more powerful than themselves, thus creating a feeling of the loss of control when left in a room alone with them. Keep the environment as public and open as possible by letting your dentist know that you’d like the dental office door to remain open as much as possible during treatment and that you’d like at least one assistant in the room at all times.
If you were victimized as a child, going to the dentist can be an exceptionally scary task as an adult. Know that, with the above advice and an understanding dentist at a clinic like Family Dental Center TriCities, PC, you absolutely can beat your fears and get the dental care you need.