Ronald L. Cooper DDS, FAGD

Do you have anxiety from the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair? Read this guide to coping with dental anxiety.

A recent study showed that 61% of people worldwide experience some form of dental anxiety. They may be afraid of the pain caused by going to the dentist, the smell of the chemicals, or the sound of the drill and discomfort of the instruments. 

While it’s unfortunate that so many people struggle with this, it is good to know you’re not alone in your experience with dental anxiety. Not to mention, you don’t have to bear the burden of a phobia of dental treatment forever. 

Whatever it is about the dentist that stirs up tension and fear for you, it’s time to start improving the way you think about this aspect of your health. 

Here are seven things you can do to overcome dental anxiety when you need dental treatment.  

1. Clearly Identify Your Fear 

The only way to face your fears is to look them straight in the eye. The first step in doing this with dental anxiety is to recognize that making a dental appointment or sitting in the dental chair causes negative emotions – and maybe physical reactions associated with fear like sweaty palms or dizziness. The next step is to go deeper. Take some time to think about what it is about the dentist that makes you afraid. Go through the process of a standard dental appointment in your head, and think about your past dental experiences as you do so. Try to pinpoint when you first started feeling dental anxiety.

This information plays a key role in how to get over the fear of dentist appointments. It highlights the specific things you need to work on, rather than making you feel anxious about your entire dental experience. 

2. Research Different Dentists 

Researching different dentists will help you find one that makes you comfortable.  Start by making consultation appointments to get to know each dentist better. You might also want to research dentists that work with patients that have dental anxiety.

The benefits of this are two-fold. 

First, going to various consultations gives you the chance to feel how you’re able to relate to each doctor. It’s basically your time to interview them and assess if they fit the bill of what you’re looking for in a dentist. Your future dentist should be patient, understanding, and prepared to walk you through each step of a dental procedure. Find out why patients love our dental practice.  

Second, having a regular dentist will do wonders for your anxiety. It allows you to get comfortable with a specific dental office and a certain dentist within that organization. Instead of experiencing fear by going to a different dentist each time you need treatment, you can build a relationship with one dentist and their staff, which will further ease your anxiety.

3. Talk to Your Dentist About Your Anxiety 

Once you have found a dentist, be sure to talk to the dental team about your anxiety and fears.

Here are some pointers:

  • Communicate clearly what you dislike about dental visits.
  • Share a dental experience that made you fearful or afraid.
  • Create a list of fears so you can easily ask your dentist questions (i.e. needles).
  • Make a list of questions to ask them (for example: Do you offer dental sedation therapy? Can I listen to music as a distraction? Can I have a friend in the room with me?)
  • Ask the dentist if they have experience working with patients with dental anxiety.
  • Share your medical history

Talking openly with your dentist can help ease your fears.

4. Consider Getting Sedated 

Creating a relationship with your dentist is great but it won’t make your fear go away entirely. For a little extra peace of mind, consider getting sedated while at the dentist.  This is a very common practice, especially for people who have dental anxiety. Getting sedated at the dentist means you can sit back in the chair and relax while the dentist does what they need to. You won’t feel a thing and your mind will be much calmer, too. Dr. Cooper and Associates leads the way in making patients feel comfortable by providing Nitrous Oxide/Laughing Gas for our anxious patients.

5. Have Someone Accompany You to Dental Appointments

Another way to calm your dental fear is to have someone go with you to the dentist. This may be a friend, family member, or significant other.  It doesn’t really matter who goes with you as long as you trust that you can lean on them if your fears start to stir up.  This person is there to calm you down. They’ll do everything from hold your hand to talk to you about things you like and distract you from what the dentist is doing. Most importantly, they won’t judge your fear.

6. Practice Relaxation Techniques Before Your Dental Appointment

Whether you’re bringing a buddy with you or not, it’s good to practice relaxation techniques before your dental appointment. Set aside a few minutes to arrive early.  Sit down and take a few deep breaths, listen to your favorite song, or call someone you love if you weren’t able to bring them with you. These relaxation techniques will shift your focus from fear and nervousness to things that create positive emotions like love and comfort. Relaxation techniques can put you in the best state of mind during your dental appointment.

7. Establish a System That Works for You

The final tip to use in overcoming your dental anxiety is to find a system that works for you. Part of this may mean going to the same dentist, bringing a loved one with you, or getting sedated.

But, it could also include rewarding yourself after each dental appointment or bringing a distraction device to help you focus on other things during your treatment. Find out what works for you.

Say Goodbye to Dental Anxiety 

It’s time to start taking care of your dental anxiety once and for all. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful smile without having to undergo all the negative emotions you’ve been associating with your oral health. 

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do ease dental anxiety, contact our office today.