Have you ever been anxious about going to see a dentist?
And have you ever put off going until the last moment because of it?
You are not alone. According to some studies, over 75% of American adults, and I think the figures are probably similar for most Western nations, well, over 75% of those adults experience some degree of dental fear, that is the fear of going to the dentists. This fear ranges from mild to severe. Out of this number, about 5 to 10% experience dental phobia – they avoid dentists at all costs. Approximately 20% experience enough anxiety to put off dental procedures as long as possible and will go to the dentists only when it’s absolutely necessary.
Some dentists estimate that about 2/3 of dental anxiety cases are caused by a negative experience at a dentist’s office at some point in those people’s lives, and for the other third it is a side effect of other problems, such as substance abuse, post-traumatic stress experienced by war veterans, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and various other anxiety disorders. There may also be other reasons. Whatever the cause is, the health consequences of such avoidance can be high. The avoidance of preventative care can lead not only to tooth decay, dental pain and lost teeth, but also to gum disease that has been linked to stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Basically the consequences are not pretty, and suffering unnecessary pain is not something I like to experience. What about you?
Wouldn’t it be great to have healthy teeth that feel and look fantastic? To have all your own teeth when you are older? To feel confident and strong when you go to see a dentist and to know you’re taking care of your teeth well?
Well, I too once felt that anxiety and put off going for far too long. For example, had you been there with me on that dark, cold and wintry Russian afternoon in November 1985, you would have been standing in a school corridor next to a nurse’s room that was turned into an impromptu dentist’s office in a short queue comprising 5 or 6 other 11-year-old school boys dressed in their dark navy blue school uniforms. You would have felt the dread creeping up on you, as the queue was getting shorter. Your knees would have felt weak and shaky, as you heard the shrieking sound of the drill behind that thin white door. You would have been absolutely terrified when your name was finally called out and you entered the white barren room to see an unfamiliar male dentist of looking at you and wearing a white lab coat, a white hat, a white surgical mask on his face and a silvery head mirror on his forehead. He might have been a caring man, but he certainly didn’t look it. “Sit on that chair,” said he in a voice devoid of emotion. I don’t remember if I was given pain killers but I do remember pain. I will spare you the rest of the details, except one. He had found holes in seven of my teeth! Needless to say, I had to make several unpleasant visits back there in the course of the following couple of weeks. To say I felt emotionally traumatised would be to say nothing. Once all those teeth were fixed, I waited until I was almost 20 to go again. Luckily this time around dentistry got a lot more advanced, and dentists became a lot more sensitive. I have never again had to have an unpleasant experience like I described before, but I had always felt anxiety before every visit – that is, until I discovered EFT tapping.
EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques and it had been developed at the end of the 20th century as a fusion of some of the best Western and Eastern emotional balancing techniques. The West has supplied its cutting-edge psychotherapy tools, while the East provided the knowledge of the subtle energy system of the body that plays a major role in our emotional experiences. EFT uses finger-tapping on some of the energy meridians while focusing on the emotions that we would like to overcome. While it is still considered to be an experimental technique, more and more credence is given to it by mainstream health and psychotherapy practitioners due to an ever-increasing number of academic studies showing its high efficacy in treating anxiety, PTSD, depression and other emotional issues. The journal of American Psychological Association has recently published an academic overview of 51 peer-reviewed papers on efficacy of EFT and other meridian-tapping techniques. You can find the link to it on our website.
The good news is that EFT is easy to learn and apply for simple issues, even on your own, and you can use it today for overcoming your fear of dentists, calming down your nerves, and possibly even reducing some of the pain you might be feeling as you are waiting for your treatment.
The basic process of EFT consists of several simple steps. To make it easy for you to remember at Emotionally Free we call this basic recipe SISTER. Think of it as your older caring sister who makes it all better. If your sister is not like that, think of a sister that makes you feel good.
As you have probably guessed, each letter in the word SISTER stands for one step in the EFT procedure.
S stands for Specific. For EFT to work, you have to identify a specific feeling that feels uncomfortable right now and describe it as specifically as you can. For example, you can describe where in your body you are feeling it and what quality it has to it. If it had a shape and colour, what it would look like? If it made a sound, what kind of sound would it make? For example, if you are feeling anxiety, you can describe it as
“this heavy, red, high-pitched anxiety in the pit of my stomach”.
You should also ask yourself what this feeling reminds you of. For example, it might remind you of the dentist’s drill in your mouth, or the way he or she looks at your teeth etc. If it reminds you of a specific past incident, that is great, because dealing with that past incident can help clear your negative feelings in the present.
Make a short (under 3 minutes) movie of that incident in your mind and pick the very first moment that makes you feel uncomfortable. Identify the specific feeling that you are feeling, for example, that fear in your knees, that anxiety in your chest, or that sinking feeling in your stomach or even the pain in your teeth. Once you’ve identified the emotion in the present or a related emotion from your past, move to the next step.
I stands for Intensity. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no feeling at all, and 10 is out-of-this-world intensity, estimate how intensely you are feeling that emotion or pain that you identified in the last step. It may be 10, or 8 or 6 or whatever you feel it to be. We need this number to see how well EFT is working, so that we can compare BEFORE and AFTER.
The second S stands for Setup. Setup is another important step of the EFT procedure. It helps the subconscious reconcile itself with the reality, accept yourself despite anything that you may consider an imperfection and affirm that you are ok the way you are. There is a saying: what you resist, persists. The setup helps remove any subconscious blocks or self-sabotage that you may have in relation to how you want to feel instead of how you’re feeling now.
The setup consists of an acceptance statement and some setup tapping. The acceptance statement sounds something like this: “Even though I have this issue, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway.” So let’s try. While tapping on this point here that we call the Karate Chop point say it out loud, if you are in a place where it is safe to do so,
“Even though I am feeling anxious about this dental appointment, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway.”
You can change ‘anxious’ to whatever feeling you are feeling right now – fearful, uncertain, worried. In fact, use the feeling from step one, for example, “Even though I feel this burning worry in my chest about seeing the dentist, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway.” Or you can say, “Even though I have this pain, I am doing something about it and I’m ok.” Pause this video and repeat this step three times. Do it now… Welcome back!
The next letter in SISTER, T stands for Tapping. This is where you tap on the different meridian points while focusing on your emotion. Let me quickly show you the points to tap. To make it easy, let’s start from the top. You will tap on these points while saying out the emotion that you are feeling. You can tap on either side or both. Use two fingers to make sure you get the points, however, it is a very forgiving process. Here is the list of points to tap, demonstrated in the photos above.
Now let’s use a reminder phrase about the emotion or pain we identified in the previous step, while tapping. It should be short and easy to say, like
“This worry in my chest” …
Say it while tapping on all points.
Ok, next we have the E which stands for Evaluate. After completing one or two rounds of tapping that I have just shown you, ask yourself – “What is my emotional intensity about this issue right now on a scale of 0 to 10?” Has it gone down, stayed the same, or gone up? If you are like most people, you will notice that the intensity has gone down. Where is it right now? 5? 3? Another figure? Great! If it has stayed the same or gone up, please check whether you are still focusing on the same emotion and situation. Are you still thinking about the same episode? Has the emotion changed in quality? Do you still feel it in the same part of your body? Please note whatever changed or hasn’t and modify your setup and tapping phrase accordingly. For example, if it has moved from your chest to your stomach, change the setup to “Even though now I feel this worry in my stomach, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway” and your reminder phrase to “This burning worry in my stomach.” If it’s not burning but doing something else now, change the phrase. If it is no longer worry, but anxiety, change it. If it is no longer about that time you went to see Dr Fox as a kid, but about something else, change it.
And finally, the last letter in SISTER is R, which stands for Repeat. Repeat the process from the setup, using your new setup phrase and tapping phrase. If your intensity has gone down, as it should, but has not cleared completely, say “Even though I still have some of that anxiety, I accept myself anyway.” For the reminder phrase say, “This remaining anxiety” or whatever is right for you.
After you repeated this for all different aspects of the problem, most probably you would have noticed the improvement in how you feel about going to the dentists. If you haven’t, that simply means that you need a little bit of extra guidance from an experienced EFT practitioner who can guide you in uncovering different aspects of the problem and clearing them. It is a good idea to make a booking with an EFT practitioner anyway, because they are trained to be thorough and do the necessary detective work to help you achieve emotional freedom. Thank you for reading this article and (maybe) watching my video on this topic. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to assisting you again.
You can connect with me at EmotionallyFree.com.au or through Facebook or Twitter. This was Serguei Levykin helping you be emotionally free!
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