Article | October 2016

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Fear less, smile more

For some people, a visit to the dentist can be scary. The good news is there are ways you can work with your dentist to make your visit easier.

Recognizing the signs of dental phobia

Fear of visiting the dentist can be a serious problem. It can cause serious panic and distress. Here are signs that you may have a dental phobia worth addressing.

  • You avoid visiting the dentist until you experience severe pain.
  • You have problems sleeping on the nights leading up to your dental visits.
  • You feel uneasy while waiting in the dental office.
  • You feel physically ill when thinking about going to the dentist.
  • You have difficulty breathing when you're in the chair, getting dental care.

Common dental fears

Determining the cause of your fears may help you resolve them.

  • Fear of pain. An early negative dental experience may have left you uncomfortable or distrusting.
  • Fear of shots. Some people are scared of needles. Others also worry that the anesthesia given won’t work and they’ll still feel the pain.
  • Side effects from anesthesia. Some people worry about how the anesthesia will make them feel. They fear getting dizzy, being nauseated or having a numb lip.
  • Loss of personal space. Many feel self-conscious with the physical closeness of the dentist or hygienist.
  • Loss of control. People sometimes struggle with not being able to see what’s going on in their mouths.

Managing your fears

You can reduce your anxiety and improve your oral health. Here’s how:

  • Communicate openly. Discuss your dental fears with your dentist. Ask questions about your oral health and your treatment.
  • Make a plan. Your dentist should work with you to address your fears and worries. If your dentist doesn’t take your concerns seriously, find another dentist.
  • Express yourself. Ask your dentist to explain what’s happening. Establish a hand signal to use if you want the dentist to stop. Use the signal if you’re uncomfortable or if you need to take a break.

Older man in dentist chair speaking with dental hygienist

Source: WebMD, “Oral Care – Easing Dental Fear in Adults.” Accessed May 22, 2015.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing and care recommendations.