5 Ways to Calm your Anxiety About Going to the Dentist

5 Ways to calm your anxiety about going to the dentist

Do you have anxiety about going to the dentist? Maybe you are seeing a dentist for the first time, or maybe you’ve had a bad experience and are hesitant about going again. People with dental anxiety will find this article helpful, as it aims to provide 5 ways that help calm dentist anxiety. Keep reading and hopefully this article will help you become more confident about going to the dentist.

According to researchers, anywhere between 50 and 80% of adults in the United States have some degree of dental anxiety, ranging from mild to severe. More than 20% of dentally anxious patients do not see a dentist regularly, and anywhere from 9% to 15% of anxious patients avoid care altogether. Needless to say, you’re not alone and don’t worry there are many different tools that you and your dentists can use to calm anxious patients.

Why are people anxious about the dentist? 

Anxiety in many cases may manifest itself in physical symptoms such as nausea, breathing difficulties or heart palpitations. Fearful feelings can often be very intense when you step into a dentist office for the first time in your life. 

Traumatic experiences

No one wants to be scolded by their dentist. No dentist is excited about drilling on a patient’s teeth, but bad dentists are the reason people are so afraid of the dentist. When a patient has had a painful experience, they will continue to associate the dentist with pain.

Hearing the horror stories

Research has shown that people naturally avoid the dentist because they hear only the scary stories. However the vast majority of people who visit the dentist do not have any issues, and instead have positive experiences with their dentist. If you have had negative experiences in the past, it’s important to talk about those with any new dentist you are seeing. The vast majority of dentists want to give you a positive experience and successful treatment, and are focused on your comfort. 

Injections or needles

The use of needles have been known to cause dentist anxiety. Even just the thought of potentially receiving an injection intensifies the feeling. Most dentists try to use the smallest needle they can for the job, and can also use topical anesthesia to numb areas where discomfort is expected. 

Here are the 5 ways to calm dental anxiety

Tip #1: Be honest with the dentist

Being open with your dentist can go a long way toward helping you calm your anxiety about the dentist. There is no reason to be embarrassed about your feelings; it’s much better for you and your dentist to talk about your anxiety, rather than feeling anxious during treatment and having a poor experience when there are likely measures your dentist can take to help you relax.

Some options include having you wear earbuds or ear plugs, lowering the lights, or medications to help you relax.  The dentist will first try to identify any fear associated with dental procedures and talk through them with you. If the dentist is able to resolve these fears through conversation, then there won’t be anything for you to worry about! The key here though is making sure to tell dentist what you need.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before selecting the perfect dentist. 

  1. Is the dentist knowledgeable about my dental care needs and requirements? 
  2. Do I feel comfortable with this dentist?
  3. How effective does this dentist seem in resolving my concerns regarding my teeth and gums? 
  4. Do I believe this dentist can help me receive treatment for any issues I may currently have? 
  5. Does this dentist provide flexible hours of service that fit into my schedule?

If you can find a dentist that truly cares about your oral health, this dentist will be able to help you overcome any dentist anxiety.

Find the perfect dentist near you!

Tip #2: Scheduling regular exams

Scheduling and maintaining regular dental exams is the best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Dentists also use these visits to educate their patients on proper oral care.  During these visits the dentist will provide the patient with a dental hygiene plan tailored to their specific needs. In addition, the dentist can detect any oral problems right away and treat them quickly, before they become bigger, more expensive issues that may be more difficult to treat.

Tip #3: Sedation or medication

To ease the tension, there is no problem with asking the dentist about sedation options. Along with sharing and hearing positive experiences with the dentist and other therapeutic options, research has shown that dental patients can receive help in overcoming their anxiety by medication.

Sedation dentistry ranges from nitrous, which lasts only during the procedure and allows you to resume your daily activities as normal, to IV sedation in which you will have no memory of the procedure (but will need a ride home after!) Many dentists nowadays offer at least one option for helping dental patients manage their anxiety.

Tip #4: Do some research

Some people feel better the more they know about their upcoming procedure(s) and what to expect.  Doing some research on what to expect for your next visit can help calm your dentist anxiety. But take caution – some people find themselves more stressed out the more they know! To make matters more complicated, there are a large number of resources out there that may be questionable in their accuracy.

If you have questions about an upcoming appointment, the best resource for information will be the dentist themselves or a member of their team who is familiar with your case. If you have questions, rest assured your dentist will be more than happy to answer them for you and help put you at ease.

Tip #5: BREATHE!

Taking deep breaths can help you relax during procedures. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out, paying attention to your breathing and trying to appreciate the current moment. Try to set aside your anxiety about what might (but likely won’t) happen during your dental visit, and focus on what’s going on in the present moment. Think about how you are proud of yourself for making an important step forward for not just your oral health, but your overall health.

Finally, don’t forget that dental anxiety is totally normal. A lot of people suffer from it, so try to keep that in mind if you feel like you don’t have support. If you find that you still have a lot of anxiety after several dentist visits, that may be a sign that you should try to find another dentist who you connect with better. There is no shame in that, and your current dentist won’t be hurt over it – most dentists want you to improve your oral health, even if it means being treated by someone else. Once you find a dentist who makes you feel right at home, you will be on the road to great strides in your oral health. 

Dr. Joel Casimir

Dr. Joel Casimir

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Curator: The DentalScout Team

25+ Years of dental experience


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