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Dental anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about dental care with an uncertain outcome. This can definitely include visiting the dentist especially after years of dental neglect. Dental anxiety is actually a very common fear but it can get out of control. A paralyzing dental anxiety can cause you to avoid dental care for years and in some cases decades. This dental anxiety and neglect can have long lasting impacts not only on your smile but your overall health. Recent clinical studies have linked dental disease (like periodontal disease) to cardiovascular disease, alzheimer’s disease, and even diabetes.

Dental Anxiety Feelings

Many people with dental anxiety have had a bad experience or have heard from a loved one about a significant dental experience. But that is not only reason some people avoid the dentist. Below you will find some common reasons why dental anxiety and dental neglect can occur:

Dental Anxiety Marielaina Perrone DDSFear Of Pain. Let’s face it no one wants to feel pain or discomfort. While dentistry has come a long way there are some parts that can cause some slight pain for some. For many they are OK but for others they are overly sensitive to oral discomfort. This is quite normal for us all to react differently to different events in our lives. Dentistry does not have to be a painful event and in most cases with a properly trained dentist and staff it is not. Choose wisely.

Fear Of Unknown. Not knowing what the dentist will say or find can cause a great deal of dental anxiety. Will I have a cavity? Will the dentist say I need a lot of treatment? All valid questions and concerns. Most people fail to realize going to the dentist every 6 months for routine checkups and cleanings will make things easier going forward. This is because any issues are caught immediately and can be handled before they get out of hand. Your gum tissues will also be healthier making the teeth cleaning easier and more comfortable.

Embarassment. A dentist or doctor is perceived as an authority figure by many. No one wants to be told they have a bad smile or have not done a good job with dental hygiene at home. A well trained dentist would never make you feel embarassed. Your dentist has seen it all. It will not phase them in the least what they find, so it should not bother you either.They would communicate the steps forward to fix the issues at hand. There is nothing to feel embarassed about.

Past Experiences. This can be a direct experience by you or an indirect experience by a loved one. Either way it will add to the dental anxiety as your dental visit approaches.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety – Communication Is The Key

Relay your fears to the dental staff and dentist. A well trained, experienced dentist will handle all patients the same and make you feel at home in the dental chair. Below are a few tips for you at your dental visit.

Be Honest and Upfront. Communicate your dental anxiety to the team and dentist so they can help you thru your visit. A well trained dentist will communicate with you and try to alleviate your fears in a variety of ways. These can include inviting you to the office prior to your appointment to just meet and talk. It can also include giving you a detailed explanation of what is to be completed at your visit so you do not have any surprises pop up.

Early Morning Appointment. For those with dental anxiety, getting the dental care done first thing in morning is best. This way there is no dwelling all day on it. Put your mind at ease and get it done first thing in the morning.

Bring Support. Bring a close friend or family member with you.

Use a STOP sign or word. You and your dental team can use a stop word or sign for when you feel the dental anxiety building and you need a break.

“Communication Is The Key To Overcoming Dental Anxiety.” – Marielaina Perrone DDS

Other Dental Anxiety Relieving Methods

-Exercise. Regular exercise can help lower stress and anxiety. Exercise helps by releasing endorphins and improving your sleep and self-image.

-Supplements Use. Certain supplements can reduce stress and anxiety. These can include ashwagandha, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and lemon balm.

-Aromatherapy. Lighting a candle can help lower anxiety and stress. Lighting a candle or using essential oils can benefit dental anxiety from calming scents.

-Baby Steps. Try not to take on more than you can handle. Saying no is one way to control your dental anxiety. Your dentist will be cognizant of your dental anxiety and space out appointments in what is best for you. Obviously you will not be able to sit in chair for extended periods of time in the beginning so your appointment schedule will reflect your dental anxiety needs.

-Yoga. Just like exercise mentioned earlier yoga can be used for stress reduction and dental anxiety relief. It may help lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure.

-Power Of Music. Listening to your favorite music can be a good way to relieve stress and anxiety.

-Breathing Exercises. Deep breathing activates the relaxation response helping relieve dental anxiety. Focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling. This will help slow down and re-center your anxious mind.

How To Ease Dental Anxiety Conclusion

Dentistry has come a long way and patients comfort is of the utmost concern for most dentists. A well trained dentist will be able to handle your dental anxiety and design a dental schedule that is right for you. The bottom line is to keep you healthy both dentally and overall. Most people with dental anxiety report that the visit to the dentist ended up not being what they had imagined all along. It was much easier. Dental anxiety can be overcome but communication is the key.

Dental anxiety affects a large portion of the population. While many have such anxiety, some are so fearful that they can not even get themselves through the dentist’s front door.Statistics show that  15-20% of all Americans avoid the dentist due to fears or anxiety about the dentist. The reasons for anxiety are different for everyone. These can include fear about feeling rushed by the dentist, possible pain, or even just the smells and sounds of the dental office. Dental anxiety and dental phobia, when stopping someone from receiving dental care,  lead to unnecessary oral and general health problems.

Tips To Calm Dental Anxiety

Finding The Right Dentist And Dental Team. That’s right, it is not just about the dentist. The dental team is just as important in maintaining a calm, soothing atmosphere. A well trained dentist and team can make you feel at ease throughout your dental treatment and actually make it an enjoyable experience. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations. A good review about a dentist from someone you trust can significantly reduce anxiety. Also, in the internet age read online reviews. These can let you get a better understanding of the dentist and how they treat their patients. Last, make an appointment for a consultation so that you can meet the dentist and staff to see if they make you feel comfortable enough to schedule an exam and cleaning.

Communication. One of the most important factors in overcoming dental anxiety is a good, open line of communication between dentist and patient. You must always feel comfortable expressing your feelings, fears, and concerns before, during, and after treatment is rendered. You must also feel that the dental team is listening to you and making adjustments as needed. Communication should never be compromised for any patient but it is even more important for a patient with dental anxiety. This will allow you to feel a sense of comfort that you may have never felt in a dental office before.

Feeling Of Being In Control. This comes from the confidence to stop or start treatment whenever you need to. You should always feel comfortable controlling your treatment.  Making treatment decisions based upon options, how long your appointments should be, and how often you are comfortable coming in for treatment. Another aspect to being in control is to give yourself the power of knowledge about your dental care. This will give you the ability to understand the steps of treatment, and why it is important for you to follow through. Being in control will allow you to properly express your feelings about how much treatment you can handle.

-Own Your Emotions. For many who have neglected their dental care due to fear there can be a sense of embarrassment. Express your feelings and allow your dentist to understand your feelings so they can be addressed properly. Panic, tears, needing your hand held, etc. are coping mechanisms to fear. It is ok to get emotional at the dental office. You can and should be able to express your emotions without embarrassment.

Utilize Relaxation Techniques.  These can include:

1. Proper Breathing. Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during dental work. When people are feeling anxiety or nervousness we tend to hold our breaths, or breathe in short rapid breaths. This decreases oxygen levels in the body, or hyperventilation, further increasing our feelings of panic.

2. Wear Headphones. For many, the sound of the dental office is a trigger for dental anxiety. Using an ipod or mp3 player with headphones can drown out the noises and relax you.

3. Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, This can trigger panic attacks, make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or give you the feeling of a fast beating heart. Caffeine before a dental appointment should be avoided.

4. Choose Pre Dental Meals Carefully. Eating high-protein foods have the ability to produce a calming effect.

5. Timing Is Everything. The time of day for your dental appointment can be critical. Try to choose a time for your dental visit when you’ re least  likely to be rushed or feel under pressure.

-Repetition. The simple process of repeat appointments, will make you feel more comfortable and at ease. As you learn what to expect, and realize that you are in control of the appointment, you will be able to manage more time in the chair. Remember not to wait too long between appointments or to reschedule unless an emergency arises. Merely coming to the office and not having treatment that day is better than canceling.

Predictable Pain Control. Every individual is slightly different. What may work for one may not work for another. Let your dentist know if you have a history of difficulty getting numb. Be sure to let your dentist know whether or not you still feel sensitivity, or lack of complete numbness. When you can trust that your comfort will be a priority, you will find that your anxiety rapidly diminishes.

Dental Anxiety Conclusion

Overcoming dental anxiety can be a trying experience. It is important to find the right dentist and dental team so that you can move forward and free yourself from dental anxiety once and for all. Know what you are looking for in a dentist, and be prepared with questions for your meeting. Remember, it is ok to shop around, you will know when you have found the right dentist for you!

For people who suffer with dental phobia or anxiety, a visit to the dentist is an anxiety inducing event. Even the thought of dental appointments can be frightening for individuals with dental phobia. Almost 35 million Americans suffer from dental phobia and dental anxiety so severe, that they avoid dental care altogether. This is troubling because, study after study has shown that our dental health is directly related to our overall health. The subsequent lack of dental care will put their bodies and their health at risk for complications. Many think sedation dentistry is the answer, but sleeping through dental treatment does not allow you to overcome dental phobia and dental anxiety in a healthy manageable way.

Best Methods To Cope With Dental Anxiety And Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety and dental phobia can be overcome!! You should not let dental phobia stop you from seeking regular dental care. With proper steps taken by patient and dentist, and some patience, those fears will minimize so that you can not only seek treatment, but feel comfortable in the dental chair. Some of the best methods for coping with dental anxiety and dental phobia include:

Communication – This might very well be one of the biggest feats to overcome for many who are fearful of the dentist. Being afraid of ridicule or even being talked down to by the dentist can make it difficult to share your fears and concerns. Communication can be a very powerful tool in giving back a full sense of control over your dental care. This control helps to reduce a majority of the anxiety of helplessness that many feel. Being a part of the decision making on treatment, knowing what to expect, and knowing if you feel uncomfortable your dentist will stop, can make any dental patient feel better. Communication and control can be the differentiating factor between those suffering from dental phobia and dental anxiety, and those who have found a way to work through it.

Distractions – Take control of your mind and allow yourself to be distracted from the dental treatment. The best ways to achieve distraction are:

1) meditation – a relaxation of mind and body musculature.

2) audio – listening to music, or the voice of your dentist while they talk you through the process with casual conversation.

3) visual –  watching television or a movie, looking at a relaxing picture during treatment. For many, the headphones help to block out the dental noises that increase their anxiety, listening to a personal story about  the dentist, visualizing a relaxing setting, and muscle relaxation can make the experience much more tolerable and possibly even pleasant!

-Muscle Relaxation Techniques – The key here is to place focus on your body parts, relaxing them one at a time. You can start with your toes or hands and work your way across your body, squeezing then relaxing each area of your body progressively. This removes your focus on the dental care and places it on your body achieving the goal of relaxing and calming yourself. Try squeezing a stress ball in 1 or both hands.

-Take A Mini Vacation In Your Mind! – To help ease your nerves and control pain during dental treatment, imagine yourself in a relaxing, enjoyable setting. For example, visualize calming colors or scenes such as the ocean, think about the sound of the waves as you relax on your favorite beach or, if you enjoy hiking, imagine yourself walking along a trail next to a river. The more detail you add to the image, the less focused you will be on the dental procedure. This technique takes practice initially, but once you gain confidence in yourself and your dentist it will get easier to do. If you find that your mind drifts away from your image, gently turn your attention back to the scene you created. Try practicing meditation with visualization at home before your appointment when you feel stressed about upcoming dental treatment.

-Breathing Exercises – This is a great technique for your drive over to the dental office, or while waiting for your appointment. Deep breathing can be a great technique to relax your mind and body prior to dental work. By taking in slow, deep breaths, the oxygen flow will have a calming effect on your entire body. Remember, slow and deep, NOT short and fast, as this can cause you to hyperventilate.

Acupuncture/Acupressure – Often laughed off, acupuncture/acupressure have many benefits. These can include relief form pain and anxiety. For this to be effective, the acupuncture  should be completed close to the dental appointment, while some acupressure can be done during the dental appointment. This will not work for all but it has been a successful technique for many in attempting to overcome dental phobia and dental anxiety.


The key to overcoming and coping with your fear is to remember that you are not alone in dealing with dental anxiety or dental phobia. If you choose the right dentist and team, they will be with you every step of the way, guiding you to overcome your fears. In the beginning it may seem insurmountable but one step and day at a time, and the visits become easier and easier. You might actually begin to wonder why you didn’t do this earlier. Do not let dental phobia prevent you from being healthy in all aspects of your life.