Are you afraid to visit the orthodontist’s office? If you are, you’re not alone. In fact, the Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center says that 30 to 40 million Americans skip visits out of fear. However, your oral health is important and shouldn’t be ignored.

10 ways to overcome your orthodontic fears and finally schedule your appointment.

1. Find the Right Orthodontist

Before you choose an orthodontist, do your research to find the right one. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, read reviews, and research online. You may feel more at ease with a funny orthodontist or you may prefer one with a lot of experience. It’s important to find one that makes you feel safe, at ease, and comfortable.

2. Schedule a Consultation

A great way to overcome your fear of the orthodontist’s office is to visit one before you have any work done. Call ahead and ask for a consultation where you can meet the orthodontist and see if the office is a comfortable fit. You can also find out exactly what the procedure will entail and even see what the equipment looks and sounds like.

3. Be Honest

Perhaps the most important way to overcome your fear is to be honest. Tell orthodontists that you’re anxious and they will do everything they can to make you more comfortable. You may find it helpful to see a demonstration or to have the orthodontist explain each step of the procedure. You’ll most likely find that orthodontists are very understanding and used to dealing with nervous patients.

4. Bring a Friend

You might find an orthodontic visit easier if you bring a friend along for support. Just make sure they’re allowed to come to your orthodontist’s office beforehand. Have your support person sit close by without getting in the way. They can talk to you, hold your hand, or just reassure you with their presence.

5. Find a Distraction

Another great way to overcome your fear while you’re getting orthodontic care is to find a good distraction. Bring along earbuds and listen to music or an audiobook. You could even use earplugs if you prefer silence and don’t want to hear any of the equipment. Many orthodontist offices have televisions mounted on the ceiling for patients to watch.

6. Reduce Physical Discomfort

Reduce your physical discomfort by wearing comfortable clothes and have an extra layer in case it’s too cold. Some people also find a hand warmer, neck wrap or scented eye pillow to be soothing while they’re in the chair. Make sure to speak to your orthodontist if the incline isn’t comfortable and ask to be repositioned. Depending on the orthodontic treatment you’re having, you may be able to have an anesthetic, nitrous oxide, or an oral sedative.

7. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques before and during your appointment can help calm your fears. Try listening to a guided meditation or practicing breathing techniques to help you cope. You can reduce your fear by taking several slow, deep breaths through your nose. Inhale deeply, hold your breath for a moment, and then slowly exhale.

8. Take Breaks

Don’t be afraid to ask your orthodontist to give you breaks during your visit. Use a hand signal to let them know when you need a moment or when you need to find a more comfortable position.

9. Have Work Done Over Time

If your fear is severe enough, you may want to talk to your orthodontist about having work done over time rather than in one appointment. Breaking up the process into smaller, digestible chunks of time can help you become more comfortable with visits.

10. Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Lastly, practicing good oral hygiene at home can cut down on the number of orthodontist office visits you may need. If you have braces or Invisalign, make sure to take proper care of them at home so you won’t need more visits than necessary. You may want to consider Invisalign over braces, which typically only require one year of wear and can be a less invasive treatment.

A visit to the orthodontist isn’t the way many people would like to spend their time. However, it can be necessary to have healthy teeth. Overcome your fear with these 10 tips and give yourself a reason to smile.