dental anxiety

Mastering Dental Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide

Ever felt that knot in your stomach at the mere thought of a dental visit? That’s dental anxiety, a common fear that can be tamed with the right tools. Keep reading to discover how to transform your dental dread into a calm, controlled experience.

How Can I Tell If I Have Dental Anxiety?

Ever feel your heart race at the mere thought of a dental appointment? Dental anxiety is more common than you might think, and it’s essential to recognize the signs. With awareness, you can take steps to overcome it.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Common signs of dental anxiety may include sleeplessness the night before a dental exam, an increasing sense of nervousness while in the waiting room, and feeling physically ill or upset at the thought of going to the dentist. You might even experience difficulty breathing when dental instruments are placed in your mouth due to intense feelings of unease.

The Physical Manifestations

Like other forms of anxiety, dental anxiety can manifest physically. You might find your heart racing, hands sweating, or start feeling light-headed. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s possible you’re dealing with dental anxiety.

The Psychological Aspect

Psychologically, you may experience intense negative feelings about dental visits or obsessive worries about what could go wrong during a dental procedure. This is often coupled with avoidance behavior – you might find yourself repeatedly rescheduling appointments or avoiding them altogether.

Recognizing dental anxiety is the first step towards overcoming it. Remember, it’s okay to feel this way and there are strategies that can help you manage and even overcome this fear. We’ll explore these next.

Approximately 36% of people experience dental anxiety


Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
– Søren Kierkegaard

person with anxiety

Empowering Techniques to Tackle Dental Anxiety

Going to the dentist unprepared is a recipe for heightened anxiety. Equip yourself with the right techniques to tackle your dental anxiety, both before and during your appointment. Let’s explore some helpful strategies.

Building Bridges with Your Dentist

  • Open Up About Your Fears: Being upfront with your dentist about your anxieties can help you process your feelings and boost your confidence in the treatment process.

  • Seek Information and Clarification: Misinformation often fuels fear. Speaking with a professional can give you accurate information and dispel misconceptions.

Relaxation Techniques to the Rescue

  • Deep Breathing: Whether you’re gearing up for your visit or already in the dentist’s chair, deep breathing can help maintain calm and composure. Focus on steady, abdominal breaths through your nostrils to relax.

  • Muscle Relaxation: Dental visits can leave your muscles tensed. Try PMR techniques, like clenching your fists briefly before relaxing them, to ease tension across your body.

  • Positive Visualizations: Transport your mind to a happy place or envisage the relief after your appointment to ease stress during the procedure.

Distraction: The Art of Mental Diversion

Distraction techniques can be a saviour during dental procedures, providing a much-needed mental escape.

  • TV Time: Some dental offices offer TV viewing during procedures. This can be a fantastic diversion if you struggle with dental anxiety.

  • Music or Audiobooks: If TV isn’t an option, plug into your favourite tunes or an engrossing audiobook. Just remember, you might associate your chosen media with the dental experience later.

Dental anxiety is more common in women than in men

Preparation For Dental Appointments

If you have a dental appointment on the horizon and you feel anxious about it, you can prepare for it by getting plenty of sleep the night before and maintaining a healthy diet. Putting the right foundations in place before your dental visit helps to prepare your mind and reduce anxieties.

Getting enough sleep: Anxiety can be stronger when you are tired, so make you get enough sleep the night before a dental appointment. Getting at least eight hours of sleep through the night resets the nervous system and relaxes the mind, so you are in the best place the next day.

Maintain a healthy diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is important no matter your life situation, but it can also help reduce dental visits and ensure you are in the best condition going into an appointment. When you eat a healthy diet, you support your body and mind by reducing anxiety.

Up to 12% of people experience extreme dental anxiety.

Are There Medications Or Therapies That Can Help With Dental Anxiety?

Did you know there’s actually a whole menu of medicinal and therapeutic options that can help take the edge off your dental anxiety? Let’s explore some of these, shall we?


Some people find relief with sedatives, which can range from mild to moderate. Mild sedation might involve nitrous oxide (you might know it as “laughing gas”), while moderate sedation could mean oral or IV medications that help you relax.

There’s also deep sedation or even general anesthesia, which means you’ll be pretty much unconscious for the procedure. But remember, these options aren’t for every situation and should be discussed thoroughly with your dentist or oral surgeon.


If you’re more of a ‘mind over matter’ person, there are plenty of non-pharmacological techniques to help deal with dental anxiety.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a short-term therapy that helps you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. In the context of dental anxiety, CBT can help change your negative attitudes towards dentistry into positive ones.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation are just a few techniques that can help you relax in the dentist’s chair.
  • Mindfulness: This involves staying focused on the present moment without judgment. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and stress.

So, yes, there are indeed medications and therapies to help with dental anxiety. It’s all about finding what works best for you. Talk to your dentist or a mental health professional to explore these options further.


Dental anxiety can affect your health and quality of life, resulting in you avoiding the dentist, for instance, leading to further dental issues. However,  plenty of support and techniques are available to help manage and resolve dental anxiety and enjoy better well-being.

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