When you live with tinnitus, a normal trip to the dentist can quickly become a living nightmare.
For starters, dental work can be stressful all on its own. Even before I struggled with tinnitus this was always an issue for me. After a few bad experiences with a horrible dentist in my early twenties, I had severe anxiety at every dental appointment for a long time.
Unfortunately, tinnitus sufferers often have a lot more to worry about because dental work can make tinnitus worse in a number of ways.
Between the uncomfortable seated position, having to hold your jaw open for long periods of time, and the loud, high-pitched cleaning and drilling tools, tinnitus spikes and fluctuations are extremely common during dental work.
The good news is there are many things you can do to make trips to the dentist a lot easier to endure.
Dentist Survival Guide:
Avoid ultrasonic cleaning tools:
Dental hygienists often use ultrasonic plaque removal cleaning tools which are problematic for tinnitus sufferers. Not only are they very loud and extremely high pitched (often in the 12,000 -15,000 Hz range), but they transmit sound through the bones of your skull directly to the inner ear, so ear plugs won’t protect you. In fact, earplugs can actually make it seem louder by blocking out all the other noise.
Luckily, these tools are not mandatory. The next time you go in for a cleaning, explain your situation and ask your dental hygienist to use the manual plaque removal tools instead of the ultrasonic ones.
Ask your dentist to drill in short bursts:
Dental drills are a problem for the same reasons as the ultrasonic cleaning tools – they are loud, high pitched, and the sound is transmitted via bone conduction straight to the inner ear. But unlike the ultrasonic cleaners, there aren’t any alternative tools. When you need a dental procedure, you probably won’t be able to avoid the drill.
The best strategy is to ask your dentist to drill in short bursts, and to take breaks in between. Explain your situation and concerns to your dentist and ask them to drill in short 5 second bursts, with breaks in between each burst. This can help to offset the impact and intensity of the noise from the drill.
Break up dental procedures into multiple visits:
It won’t always be possible to split up your dental work into multiple office visits, but you should always ask, especially if you need to have a lot of work done. Less time in the chair means less chance of having tinnitus related issues.
Earplugs won’t help you to reduce the decibel level of dental equipment, but sound masking can make it a little bit easier to endure. Listening to music, white noise, or nature sounds through headphones can provide a sort of buffer against the noise, similar to how partial sound masking is used to help people cope with tinnitus.
Background noise creates an environment where the drills and other dental tools aren’t the only things you can hear, which in my experience can make a big difference. Just remember to keep the volume at safe levels.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
Even when I’m just going in for a cleaning, I find myself constantly tensing up in the dental chair. Dental work is often stressful, and that stress/anxiety causes us to tense up, which can make your tinnitus worse.
The solution is simple: pay attention to your body, and consciously focus on relaxing your muscles. This will help you to stay calm and will reduce the stress and anxiety you experience.
Brainwave Entrainment Audio for Deeper Relaxation:
Brainwave Entrainment is a mind-altering audio technology that can induce specific changes in your mental state, like deep relaxation, with nothing but sound.
Here’s a basic overview of how it works:
How you feel changes your brainwaves in a very precise way. In fact, there is a predictable and measurable brainwave pattern directly associated with every possible mental state you could ever experience. But you can also temporarily change your mental state and how you feel, by changing your brainwaves with an external audio stimulus. This effect is called brainwave entrainment.
By simply listening to a brainwave entrainment audio track embedded with the frequencies that correspond with deep relaxation, you can trigger powerful relaxation and deep sedation within minutes at the push of a button. As you can imagine, this can be super helpful in the dentist chair.
For years, I used brainwave entrainment audio to help me relax at every dental appointment. It worked really well to help me combat the horrible anxiety I experienced, even before I suffered from tinnitus. And now you can try it too!
The Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project is a brainwave entrainment audio program I created to help people cope with and habituate to their tinnitus. It features a wide variety of tracks with different brainwave entrainment effects, some of which are designed solely for the purpose of inducing a deep state of relaxation and sedation in a matter of minutes.
You can learn more about the Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project Brainwave Entrainment Audio Program here.
Hearing is believing! Click play on either of the free samples below to experience the incredible anxiety relieving power of Brainwave Entrainment. Listen with headphones or a decent set of speakers and with your eyes closed. As you listen take slow, deep, steady breaths and watch how quickly brainwave entrainment audio can relax you.
(IMPORTANT: Read this disclaimer before you listen as these samples are extremely sedating.)
If you already own the Tinnitus Relief Project Audio Program, use the deep and light relaxation tracks.
Make a Plan:
Sometimes, just having a plan in place to deal with potential problems can make you feel a lot less anxious at the dentist. In fact, this kind of planning is actually good for facing the fear that many tinnitus patients experience in all kinds of situations.
Follow this simple step-by-step exercise to help you plan for every possible tinnitus-related thing that could go wrong at your next dentist appointment!
Relax Your Jaw Muscles:
Holding your mouth open wide for a long period of time puts a lot of tension into the muscles around your jaw, which can be problematic for some tinnitus sufferers. Jaw tension is a common trigger of tinnitus, and for many people, clenching your jaw muscles or even yawning can cause your tinnitus pitch or volume to change.
So the next time you are in the dentist chair and your jaw muscles are sore, tense, or tired, practice the following jaw muscle relaxation exercise as much as you can:
If you live with tinnitus, going to the dentist doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little bit of planning, the right approach, and a few helpful tools in hand, you can make the whole experience a lot less stressful. And you can prevent difficult tinnitus spikes and fluctuations.
I hope everyone gives these suggestions a try! If you have any other helpful dentist tips or strategies, be sure to leave a comment below!
Hi Glenn. Great article. I just finished your book and alot of great suggestions. I have had tinnitus most of my life. It was bearable until the dental visit last month where it spiked and has not settled down. He completed a filling on a tooth that was right beside my right ear. Now my right ear has spiked off the charts. Never happened before. I am going to start the process of habituation and look forward to the results.
Question: What do you think of Notched Sound Therapy? You did not mention it in your book. Do you think it has some potential with certain people? I wanted to start your habituation process, step by step, but thought of using notched therapy at the same time. Too much?
Hi Steve, I’ve never used it myself, but I know many people who have used it to mixed results. Hard to say how effective it is. Having said that, you definitely can use it in conjunction with my strategy. In fact, anything that helps you cope will be helpful along with my strategy. So it’s worth a shot if you can try it without spending too much money.
I am terrified now to go have dental work because I can’t bear the thought my tinnitus could get worse, it sort of seems to be settling down sometimes but so afraid it will come back full time. I’d rather have my teeth just yanked out. Aren’t there lasers or something they can use instead of drills??
No lasers, but here is one more piece of advice I received from a reader who is a dentist: patients can ask for a red hand piece drill instead of the turbine drill.
It’s apparently a lot quieter and not as high pitched. The red handle drill is driven by an electric motor and has the same friction grip for the burs used in turbine drills, where as the turbine is air pressure driven and much more likely to cause spikes due to the volume and high pitches sound. It usually is a dentist’s preference whether he is using the red (band) electrical hand piece or turbine hand piece. So you can ask your dentist to use the quieter drill.
I never thought of the dentist drill having an effect! I have wondered if braces brought on the ringing.I do not know when it started. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks for your book. I plan to start with the lifestyle tracker. I am a pen and paper person and though the electronic gadget you endorsed looks interesting,I am not so inclined since I am concerned about electronic magnetic fields.My ENT also said salt can make the ringing worse but he had no other input..and he has ringing too!
It’s great to learn that you should ask your dentist to drill in short bursts when you have tinnitus. My brother is worried about going to the dentist with his tinnitus. I’ll let him know that he should tell his dentist to drill in his teeth in short bursts when he’s getting operated on.