How to Deal With Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety, also known as dentophobia or dental fear, is a common issue many people live with. You may fear going to the dentist due to a negative experience or having a dental condition that may be uncomfortable to fix.

On average, 36% of the population experiences dental anxiety, leaving people wondering how to overcome dentophobia. In many cases, dental anxiety can lead to avoidance and make people unwilling to get regularly scheduled cleanings and checkups. Overcoming dentist anxiety can ensure that you maintain a healthy smile and prevent potential dental complications or conditions from occurring.

Find a Dentist You Trust

One of the most crucial parts of learning how to deal with dental anxiety is finding a dentist you can trust. Many dentists understand their patients may be anxious, nervous or fearful. A dentist who prioritizes patient comfort and pain-free care can help make dental checkups more pleasant.

A compassionate and empathetic dentist can ease your worries by explaining procedures and treatments in detail, so you understand everything that will happen during your visit. Additionally, a trusted dentist will ensure you are comfortable and provide breaks at any point if you feel overwhelmed. Providing high-quality dental services can build trust with a patient, reduce dentophobia and build a lasting relationship that can ensure you feel safe while receiving proper preventive treatments.

Be Honest With Your Dentist About Dental Anxiety

It’s always best to be honest with your dentist about any dental anxiety you may have. Many dentists treat thousands of patients each year and have experience working with people who live with dental anxiety. When scheduling an appointment, notify the staff about your dentophobia. In most cases, dental offices are understanding and willing to help make you as comfortable as possible.

When meeting with your dentist, discuss any worries you may have about your visit. Being specific and using examples can help your dentist understand what you may fear. With this information, dentists can help create a plan for dealing with dental anxiety, while providing you with necessary dental cleanings and treatments.

  • Bring emotional support: Bringing a trusted friend or family member to your dental appointment can help ease anxiety. A supportive friend can provide comfort in the waiting room and help you remain as relaxed as possible.
  • Familiarize yourself with the tools: Dentists use various tools, which can be loud or appear frightening. Asking your dentist what each tool is and how they use it may calm some of your fears. Most of the equipment dentists use daily is simple and much less intimidating than it may appear.
  • Take breaks if needed: At any time, you can ask to take a minute to compose and calm yourself. Many dentists are willing to accommodate your needs, so you feel in control and can approach the situation confidently.
  • Practice proper oral hygiene: While practicing correct oral hygiene is a recommendation everyone should follow, it is essential for overcoming dentist anxiety. Preventive dental services can ensure a healthy smile and reduce the potential risk of developing a cavity or other dental complications that may require more intensive treatment.

Request a Numbing Agent

Dentists regularly use effective numbing agents and gels to ensure patients are comfortable and do not experience any pain during dental treatment. For example, you may request a numbing gel before your dentist administers any injections. On average, 21% of the general population is afraid of needles. A numbing agent can help reduce discomfort and calm patients who fear needles.

Fortunately, anesthetics and numbing agents are available for most dental procedures. A patient with dentophobia may be frightened of going to the dentist because numbing agents were previously not as readily available. You should never feel embarrassed about asking for a numbing agent. A dentist will want to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible before proceeding with treatment.

Find Distractions

Focusing on the sounds and sensations of a dental procedure can sometimes worsen dental anxiety. If you only pay attention to what is happening during your dental treatment, you will likely fixate on sensations and create more fear of the procedure itself. Finding appropriate distractions can help you focus your attention and energy on something other than your dental treatment.

  • Headphones: Bringing your headphones to a dental appointment can be a helpful tip on how to overcome dentophobia. Headphones can allow you to listen to your favorite music, catch up on a podcast or listen to an audiobook.
  • Movies and television: Many dental offices now have TV screens in examination and treatment rooms. If television is available, selecting your favorite TV show or movie is an excellent way to entertain yourself and relax your nerves.
  • Cellphone: At some dental offices, you may be able to use your cellphone during treatment. Whether it is sending a message to a friend or catching up on the latest news, a phone can provide a welcome distraction when you are at the dentist.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques are an effective tool to use when overcoming dentist anxiety. Various soothing strategies can calm your mind and help avoid excessive concern or worry when at the dentist. Finding the right method for you can help you deal with your dental anxiety and become more comfortable at the dentist.

  • Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises and breath control can help you remain calm and ground yourself while visiting the dentist. Since you can’t breathe a future breath or a past breath, breathing techniques keep you focused on the present moment. Research shows that abdominal breathing can encourage the body to relax and control the nervous system.
  • Essential oils: Many essential oils have a calming effect. Some popular essential oils to reduce anxiety and stress include lavender, jasmine and bergamot.
  • Meditation: Various meditation techniques can slow racing thoughts and bring your attention inward. Meditation helps minimize generalized anxiety disorder symptoms by centering and relaxing an anxious mind.

Pain-Free Care at Lighthouse Dental

At Lighthouse Dental, we are a family-owned dental practice that provides pain-free dental care to our patients. We offer preventive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry services to help our patients achieve a healthy smile. Our dental practice also specializes in patients who are overcoming dentist anxiety.

We provide a caring, compassionate environment for all our patients to reduce any fear and worry associated with visiting the dentist. We strive to provide pain-free care at our practice and offer calming therapies, including nitrous oxide and oral triazolam. Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, is a mild sedative agent that is a safe way to manage pain and dental anxiety. Oral triazolam is also a safe and effective oral sedative that can help anxious patients receive dental care more comfortably.

Call us at 360-576-3570 or contact us online today to schedule an appointment.


Fact-checked by Dr. Constant Lu

Dr. Lu is a dentist in Vancouver, WA, and is committed to providing his patients with quality, pain-free, and affordable dental care. Learn more about Dr. Lu here.

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