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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

A Good, Deep Breath Can Do Wonders

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 15.01.2014

If you are nervous about going to the dentist here is a technique that is free and can be done by anyone, at any time to help make your dental visit easier. By mastering your breathing you can take control of your body and mind, giving you the ability to get through a situation that you may otherwise find stressful.

Our entire nervous system, internal organs and glands are largely driven by our breathing patterns. By changing our breathing we can influence millions of biochemical reactions in our body, producing more relaxing substances (such as endorphins) and fewer anxiety-producing ones (like adrenaline and higher blood acidity). Controlling our breathing not only keeps our mind and body functioning at their best; it also lowers blood pressure and promotes feelings of calmness and relaxation.

This can be achieved by practicing the 7- 11 breathing method which involves breathing in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. Try it, it naturally slows down your breathing. Find a breathing rate which is comfortable for your own lungs and doesn’t make you feel light headed. Slowing and regulating your breath can calm even the most anxious person. This breathing technique also prevents the worrying thoughts taking over.

The idea is that the brain can only think of one thing at a time so if you’re focusing on counting then your mind is “busy” and can’t worry at the same time. If you are especially anxious of dental treatment you could try this the night before a dental appointment to help you sleep better or the hour before the appointment. When your body is calmer, treatment goes more smoothly and things feel more comfortable. 7-11 breathing is especially useful during the actual treatment to regain control. If you feel your breath getting shallower and quicker or any anxious thoughts creeping back in; bring your focus back to your breath, steady your mind with the counting and a feeling of calmness will come over you.

7-11 breathing does take a little practice and needs to be learned as a new skill but it really works. People who have a dental phobia can overcome it, even if the phobia has been there for a long time. Conquering a fear often brings a great sense of personal satisfaction and peace of mind.