Dental Anxiety: Tips For Coping With Fear Of The Dentist

I have pretty bad dental anxiety. I remember being in elementary school and getting an upset stomach before my dentist appointments. Fear of the dentist is a common fear. When I recently started seeing a new dentist, the forms I had to fill out int he first visit asked if you have anxiety! Over the years I’ve had several methods for trying to cope with dental anxiety because I don’t want to let my fear of the dentist to keep me from getting the care that I need – that only makes things worse! I often use a combination of several methods for the best overall experience.

10 ways to reduce dental anxiety and get to the dentist despite your fear.

  1. See a dentist that you like. As a kid I had a dentist who was older and sort of grumpy. As an adult, I’ve switched dentists to find one who had a personality that made me feel more at-ease and that helped.
  2. Go to a dental office that you trust. I’ve had dentists in the past who I thought did sloppy work and that increased my anxiety. I now go to a dental clinic at a highly respected university and I feel a bit more at-ease because I know their quality standards are very high.
  3. Distractions during work. I bring headphones so I can listen to music on my phone. I’ve never had a dentist who had a problem with this. Distractions in the waiting room can help if you are anxious while waiting.
  4. If severe, you can request a single anxiety pill to take before your appointment. I did this once when I had to have a root canal done as that was a particular area of anxiety for me.
  5. Request laughing gas so you can relax during your work.
  6. Wear comfortable clothes. I often wear yoga pants or leggings when I see the dentist so I am more physically comfortable.
  7. Confess your concerns. As I mentioned above one dentist asked if you have dental anxiety right on the initial forms. I said yes, so when discussing that with me at my first appointment they asked what about the dentist bothered me the most, so they could try to make it easier for me. They explained that if your concern is the shot, they can give extra numbing gel before the shot, while if it’s fear of being poked with the cleaning tools they will be conscious of being extra-gentle, and so on. Being specific about your fears can help them cater your care to avoid your sources of anxiety as much as possible.
  8. Schedule early-morning appointments. I’ve found that if I have an afternoon appointment, I spend the whole morning worrying! I love 8am appointments so that it’s out of the way early.
  9. Stay busy the night before. I deep clean my house, catch up on old TV, whatever I can to keep my mind busy the night before the appointment to avoid worrying in advance.
  10. Have something to look forward to, or make up a reward when you’ve made it through. As a mini reward for doing something you didn’t want to, treat yourself. Have your favorite meal for dinner that night, give yourself the day off from chores, or make a small purchase like a new book, bottle of nail polish or CD. Pairing something positive with the negative can make the day feel better overall.

Are you scared of the dentist? What do you do to lower your dental anxiety or to force yourself through the appointment? Share in the comments!

Comments 4

  • Barbera Peters

    I am needing to find a dentist for a cavity that I need filled but I have no idea how to choose a dentist or how to deal with going to the dentist. You mentioned that wearing comfortable clothes can help so that you are not distracted with how comfortable you feel physically. That is a great tip for me to keep in mind while I find a dentist to get an appointment.

  • Jay Jorgenson

    I have fear of the dentist as well! Great tips! I’ve never thought to bring in music and headphones. I don’t like “trying” to talk to the dentist or hygienist anyway. “I can’t talk your hand is in my mouth”. I”m going to bring in music for sure for my next visit this week.

  • Katie Dunn

    I really like your tip about scheduling morning appointments with the dentist. I deal with a lot of anxiety, and so that sounds like a great tip to help me not worry. Is there a specific weekday that you think would be best to set up an appointment on as well?

  • It was really nice how you shared the idea that you brought headphones with you during your trip to the dentist because it helped you relax. I guess I can do that too considering that whenever I’m anxious or irritated, the only thing that can calm me down. I’m currently looking for a dentist because the discomfort of my toothache has finally overpowered my fear of the dentist. I’ll still consider your tips though, for when it returns. Thank you.

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