How to Help Dental Anxiety

Posted on:

January 9, 2021

If you get nervous just thinking about going to the dentist, you are not alone. You may be scared that the dental treatment will hurt or you may not have been to the dentist in some time and are afraid of what will be found.

Whatever is your situation, your dentist should make sure that not only is your dental health taken care of but also your emotional health.

Like almost anything else in life, the more you prolong not going to the dentist, the more likely it is you will develop a dental problem. Remember, prevention is always the best treatment so seeing your dentist regularly will actually make your dental appointment experience much easier and less stressful.

How to Help Dental Anxiety

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Anxiety

People with dental anxiety may experience:

  • Sweating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Visible distress, crying, or signs of panic
  • Withdrawal or using humor or aggression to mask anxiety

Causes of Dental Anxiety

  • Fear of pain: fear usually stems from past experience at the dentist’s office
  • Trust issues with the clinic
  • Fear of injections or fear that injections won’t work
  • Fear of anesthetic side effects

How Can Dental Anxiety Affect Oral Health?

Avoiding the dentist because of anxiety can worsen the dental problem you may have, resulting in a greater need for emergency care and complex treatment.

Most dental diseases are lifestyle-related and preventable. Dental checkups, x-rays are preventive measures for any dental diseases. By avoiding going to a dentist, not only are you inviting more complex treatments but also missing out on how to keep your oral health in check.

Strategies To Ease Your Dental Anxiety

Here are some strategies you can use at your next appointment to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile.

  1. Communicate
    It is important for you to share your feelings – this makes a world of difference. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, let your dentist know. If your dentist knows how you are feeling, they will be in a better position to help you through your dental treatment.

    Do not be shy. Remind your dentist at your appointments how you feel and do not be afraid to ask questions. By knowing what to expect will help with the fear of the unknown.

    Another helpful idea is to agree with your dentist prior to treatment on a signal that you can use to indicate that you need a break. A common signal is raising your hand.
  2. Distraction
    Distracting your mind from the dental treatment may seem difficult but there are some easy ways to do so.

    Wear headphones and listen to music or an audiobook. This will help decrease how much you hear the dental drill and will distract your mind. You may even find yourself lost in the music or book you are listening to.

    Occupy your hands by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object. Imagine your happy place and picture yourself at a relaxing beach.
  3. Be Mindful
    Relaxation actually starts in the mind; knowing this, try breathing exercises to help relax tension in your body.
  4. Count your breaths
    Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Do this five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks while you’re sitting in the dental chair.

    Concentrate on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. This is called body scanning. Start with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, you can focus on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck, and down the rest of your body.
This article was first posted on January 14, 2020, and last updated on January 9, 2021.

About the author

Dr. George Orfaly

Dr. George Orfaly, D.M.D.

Dr. George Orfaly is a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry and has been practicing as a dentist in Salem, MA since 2005. He has consistently improved the lives of his patients by providing them relief, confidence, and healthy smiles. He believes that oral health is directly related to overall health and well-being. Dr. Orfaly has also been an active member of the American Dental Association, Massachusetts Dental Society, and North Shore District Dental Society.

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October 7, 2020

Coming to Dr Orfaly is The best decision I could have made. I didn’t have a dentist for years and they saw me when I had an emergency. Now I am getting all of my dental work here, perfect caps, bridges and hygiene. I highly recommend Dr Orfaly and his staff.

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October 28, 2020

After having a negative experience with a filling with a past dentist, I was nervous to go to a new dentist with tooth pain. Dr. Orfaly and team were very understanding and knowledgable when walking me through my options for a cracked tooth. 10/10 would recommend due to their professionalism, attention to detail, and level of care. Thanks team!

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April 1, 2021

Dr Orfaly is the best dentist around! I have alot of anxiety around going to the dentist & Dr Orfaly always makes sure to check in to see how I'm doing & is so nice. If a referral is needed to a specialist, he makes the call for you & gets you an appt quickly (mine was even the same day) I love how they book you with the same dental hygienist for all cleanings.. Adds another level of comfort... Shoutout to mine, Kathy!

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