As the year comes to a close, benefits covered by many dental plans expire, which may prompt plan members to use up any remaining benefits for treatment they may have been putting off.

Now is a great time to finish that dental implant with a crown, fill a cavity, or schedule an exam to be ready for the coming year. But if you’ve been procrastinating about making an appointment because you’re feeling anxious about visiting the dentist, you may want to face your fears head on.

Here are 5 tips to help alleviate your anxiety and make a trip to the dentist less stressful than it needs to be:

  1. Identify the causes of your dental anxiety. Is pain a major concern? Loss of control, feelings of helplessness, embarrassment over the condition of your teeth and gums, a negative past experience? Realizing what’s making you nervous can help you develop realistic expectations
  2. Communicate your fears prior to an appointment. When making an appointment, be vocal about your apprehensions, fears and anxiety. You’ll be helping your dentist gauge the situation and create an action plan suited for your needs. Remember, dentists are there to help improve your oral health and make your experience as pleasant as possible
  3. Use distractions. Try listening to music or fiddling with a stress ball. Your dentist may even have a television monitor in the exam room to watch during treatment
  4. Are sedatives helpful? Sedation can help reduce anxiety and keep a patient calm and relaxed during treatment. Sedatives include nitrous oxide and oral or IV sedation. Discuss with your dentist which option might work best for you
  5. Practice relaxation techniques. Tactics like deep breathing, which involves taking a deep breath and letting it out very slowly, can help relax the muscles and slow down heart rate

With a little planning, you’ll be preparing yourself to take advantage of benefits you still have left this year. After all, with the holidays approaching, you’ll want to feel your best and have confidence in your smile.