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Breathe Deeply, Open Wide

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DENTISTS these days offer the fearful help beyond laughing gas and Novocain. Some even provide massages and virtual-reality goggles.

Here are some other ways to relax in the hot seat:

* Bring your Walkman. (We're still waiting on the noiseless drill.)

* Practice deep, slow breathing. It helps by relaxing muscles - which help relax you.

* Consider Valium. Many dentists will give you one, if you've had it before and someone can take you home.

* Find a dentist with whom you have a rapport. "I find the less I talk about dentistry, the quicker it goes," says Dr. Michael Margolin, who talks to his patients about movies, restaurants and vacations - "the same conversation we'd have if we were just hanging out."

"If you can talk to a dentist about your fears, about what you like and don't like," adds New York's Dr. Louis Siegelman, "that's worth milligrams of medication."

- Barbara Hoffman

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