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Overcoming Dental Anxiety

dental anxiety

It is not uncommon to have a fear of visiting the dentist. This fear is referred to as dental anxiety, and is commonly described as the sense of being agitated or fearful of going to the dentist. Common fears include fear of dental discomfort, loss of control, the clinical environment, and needle phobia. Dentists are used to treating anxious patients and have a variety of solutions for making the visit less nerve racking, including distraction techniques and light sedation. Those who are really anxious can also prepare for the dentist visit by talking it through with the dental practice or a general practitioner ahead of time, or by having hypnotherapy.

What is dental anxiety or dental phobia?

Dental anxiety is the sensation of being frightened or fearful of going to the dentist. It can be experienced in varying degrees of severity, from a general feeling of uneasiness of having to go and visit the dentist, to a very highly obstructive fear.
There are many reasons you may have a fear of the dentist and feel concerned about getting dental treatment. Here are the most common reasons:

  • A fear about specific procedures (like fillings ) causing dental pain.
  • The close contact of a check-up and sense of loss of control.
  • Being scolded about the state of your oral health.
  • A negative past experience at the dentist.
  • The sterile smell and the clinical environment.
  • Phobia about needles.

The good news is that, regardless the reason for your discomfort, there are a number of ways to handle dental anxiety and take steps towards overcoming it. The most important thing to remember is that avoiding regular check-ups can be seriously damaging to your oral hygiene. When you do not visit the dentist for long time it regularly makes you fear it even more, building up a negative cycle of poor oral health and neglect that can lead to a decline in your overall health. Many of us who have dental phobia also pass it on to their offspring in this way.

How common is dental anxiety or dental phobia?

Dental anxiety or phobia is very common, and dentists see anxious patients virtually every day. You should not feel apprehensive or embarrassed to confess that you are nervous. In reality, letting your dentist know will give them a much better opportunity to give you a more personalised experience. They will talk it through with you and inform you on what can be done to make you to feel more at ease.

What can I do before an appointment if I am nervous?

There are many strategies to make preparations for a dental appointment.

Seek information

Arming yourself with more knowledge regarding what should be expected from a dentist visit, or a particular, procedure, is a good approach. Do research using trusted health websites and associations and talk to professionals and other people who have undergone a particular treatment.

Talk with the dental practice

If you are worried or have questions, it is often best to go straight to the source. Pay a visit to the practice you are thinking about attending and talk to the practice reception about your concern. They’re going to be able to give you advice. Some dentists and dental practices specialise in treating people who suffer from dental stress, and can be found by going online. You can ask if it is actually possible to book an appointment simply to come in to chat about treatment options beforehand, which will allow for you to develop a connection with the dentist before any work is carried out. You may also consider staying with the same dentist for subsequent visits, as you may become more comfortable with them over a period of time.

Talk to a Family Physician

Alternatively, your General Practitioner may be able to put you forward to a professional specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy; a strategy that may be used to change the way that you think about certain facets of life. This could be especially effective if your stress is based on an awful experience in childhood and has stopped you from visiting a dentist for years. When you have dealt with the underlying uneasiness in this manner, you should find it easier to go and visit the dentist.


Though not a medically certificated way to cure anxiety, it may help many individuals feel more relaxed and better able to cope with certain circumstances. It works by using the power of suggestion to help change your thought process and overcome obstacles in your thinking. Hypnotherapy can only really be performed by trained professional, for example an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming ) expert, or a behavioural therapist. They will be in a position to talk you through the process in some detail. Regardless of common perceptions of hypnosis, you will not be under anyone’s power or unable to exercise self control. You will be conscious and aware of your surroundings, and in a position to remember events as they happen.

What can be done at the dental practice if I am anxious?

Speak with the dentist

The best, and first, plan is to communicate with your dentist before the examination or treatment to make the situation clear. Ask as many questions as you need to so as to understand what should be expected, and what kind of assistance is available.

The Distraction Technique

Dental anxiety is essentially mental, so this is maybe the most straightforward technique to use. It may involve using a pleasant stimulus to keep your attention off the procedure itself and help you to relax. As an example, dependent on the practice facilities available, you may be able to watch a DVD, or listen to some music or an audio book.

Bring a friend

A popular way to boost your confidence is to bring someone along for support. Many sufferers of dental anxiety fare better when they are not alone and most dentists will not mind if you want to be accompanied. Some dentists may even encourage it.

Plan a Pleasurable Activity

By planning a pleasurable activity right after your dental appointment, you are rewarding yourself for a job well done and you are focusing on the future.

The Dental Wand

Some dentists can use this device to deliver local anaesthetic without the necessity for a normal needle injection. By delivering the anaesthetic in a slow and controlled way ( normally into the gum ) over a two-minute period you are unlikely to experience the pointed pricking discomfort of a traditional injection. This sensation is usually a result of the fluid being injected too swiftly. Using the wand device, the gum will numb continuously, further reducing any discomfort.


Using dental sedation, for example oral sedatives or intravenous ( IV ) sedation, does not necessarily mean that you’re going to be rendered unconscious. Many forms will leave you awake, but in a state of enhanced tranquility. Your powers of reasoning and sense of coordination may also be diminished. If a dentist offers this, they’re going to have been specially given training to administer it.
IV sedation is the primary method of overcoming anxiety. It is safe, reliable and because it has an amnesic effect it is commonly used for procedures that are invasive in nature – for instance, a wisdom teeth removal or implant surgery.
A general anaesthetic is generally regarded as a last resort and would only be used if you were genuinely unable to bear treatment through other methods. You will be completely unconscious for the entirety of the procedure and will need someone to keep a watch on you for up to twenty-four hours after the treatment.
You need to note that when you undergo treatment with a little help from sedation your underlying anxieties are likely to remain, especially if you do not remember a lot of the experience. It is possible for you to overcome your anxiety through the various other strategies described here. To ensure you keep up regular dentist visits during your life, it is highly recommended you address and attempt to overcome your dental anxiety or phobia as much as possible.

What else can I do?

Besides the precise strategies detailed above, you need to think about this general advice:

  • Consider taking early morning appointments so you do not spend the entire day worrying about your dentist visit.
  • Have regular check-ups to make sure you dental health remains stable and you avoid being forced to have sizeable treatment in one go.
  • Regularly seeing a dentist will also lessen your feeling of unease, as you get even more conditioned to being in the dentist chair.
  • If you have a dental problem, seek treatment sooner than later. If you wait and the issue worsens, treatment becomes more complex and you might spend some more time in the dentist chair.