Do you hate the D word? Dentist, that is. He wears a mask, an oversized white coat perfect for showing off blood stains and has an endless supply of shiny, sharp, scary surgical tools. No, thank you.

Yeah, going to the dentist sounds like horror movie material when you think of it like that. Being afraid of the dentist is totally understandable, but it’s time to put on your big girl pants. You can do it, one leg at a time.

Take off the Tacky Fear Pants

Yes, they’re your trusty pair of fear pants, and you’ve come this far in them. But it’s important to understand the root of your dentist fears and anxiety and discover how to cope with them. You’re a grown woman, and you need adult Wonder Woman Went to the Dentist pants that match your awesomeness.

Even if you have healthy teeth, you still have to go. So stop the excuses: It’s less expensive the sooner you go, and many scary dentist myths can be debunked. Your fear is like a security blanket that isn’t doing you any good, and the actual consequences of not seeing the dentist are greater.

The Bad Stuff Doesn’t Have to Be Bad

A little gingivitis may seem better compared to the potential massacre the dentist will inflict on your gums, but the reality is a mix of good and bad.

The reality of going to see the dentist means your teeth get the attention they need, and your long-term health is preserved through a good dental health plan and care. That’s the good.

The reality of not going to see the dentist is that your heart health is at risk the longer you wait. The leading cause of death among women in the U.S. is heart disease, which is linked to periodontal disease. That’s the bad.

You’re probably aware of all that, which is good, because that’s part of ditching the fear pants. Accept your fear. Make an appointment and go take care of yourself. The reward is greater than the fear. Here are a few things you can do put on your big girl pants before you head to the dentist:

Get a Good Recommendation for a Dentist That Gets It

Ask friends and family about recommendations for dentists who will understand your fears and be extra considerate with you on visits. Once you have dental candidates to choose from, schedule times to come in and meet face to face to ask questions and assuage your fears.

The right dentist will understand why you don’t want to have a physical assessment on the first visit. Choose a dentist you feel comfortable with and who checks in with you about each step of your treatment.

Realize It’ll Take More Than One Visit — Like Exposure Therapy

Plan each step and appointment gradually. You’ll go to have a check-in, and the dentist will look at your teeth, perhaps taking scans of your jaw. When your dentist is aware of your fears, he or she can customize your treatment plan to ease you into your visits.

Some psychologists use a technique called exposure therapy to help their patients cope with anxiety and phobias. Many people actually successfully do this themselves without even knowing what it’s called! It’s about slowly exposing yourself to the environment and factors that bring up your fears and anxiety.

This way you can find out what triggers your fear and process how you feel about the experience. It also gives you time to consider how you best cope with those triggers. Sometimes, a little exposure at a time is all you need to see that your fears were scarier than the actual visit.

Practice Better Dental Health Care at Home

Do you brush two to three times daily? Is flossing a little scary? Consider giving it another try with an alternative, easy technique like water flossing.

When you practice better health care at home, you have your own set of tools to get used to. The dentist isn’t going to break out a drill to drill holes in your teeth, but there are many tools that make horrifying noises. For example, an electric toothbrush can help get you accustomed to a similar sound, and you will have full control over the tool.

Dream a Little Dream of Healthy Teeth

Working on a patient is easier for the dentist when they are calm. If your anxiety feels overwhelming after trying the above, consider a dentist who specializes in sedation dentistry.

Sedation dentistry allows patients to be placed under sedation for any procedure, from cleaning teeth to performing a root canal. You will be awake but relaxed during your visit. Sedation techniques include IV, oral ingestion and laughing gas (nitrous oxide). If you have a gag reflex, dislike shots, have complex dental issues or had a bad dental experience, sedation dentistry could be the solution.

One leg at a time — that’s how you get it done. Going to the dentist is scary, but you can do it by understanding your fears, prioritizing your dental health and taking small steps at a time. Everyone will love your new look, as you sport your new Wonder Woman Went to the Dentist pants!