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6 Ways to Deal with Dental Anxiety

May 17, 2023
6 Ways to Deal with Dental Anxiety

Seeing your dentist regularly plays a critical role not only in your dental and oral health, but also in your overall wellness. You probably already know this. However, you might also be reluctant to visit the dentist for a common reason: dental anxiety.

Don’t worry if you still struggle with fear of going to the dentist! You’re not alone. Research indicates dental anxiety may affect up to 75% of American adults to some degree. 

This type of anxiety may be so common at least in part because it has many potential causes. They include:

  • Memories of negative dental treatment experiences from childhood
  • Fear of discomfort during dental procedures
  • General discomfort with a clinical environment like a dental office
  • Lack of understanding regarding what some dental treatments may involve

Luckily, there are various ways you can ease your concerns about dental appointments. They include the following:

Speak With Your Dentist

There’s no reason not to tell your dentist about your anxieties! Virtually all dentists thoroughly understand that many patients experience at least a little fear about receiving dental treatment. Anything you may tell your dentist, rest assured, they’ve likely heard it before.

When your dentist is aware of your anxiety and has some idea about what might cause it, they may be better able to address your fears. For example, if you worry that a procedure will be painful, your dentist can explain how they can minimize your discomfort. If the overall environment of a dentist’s office makes you anxious, they might be able to take steps to ensure the atmosphere is more calming, such as playing relaxing music.

A dentist might also let you bring your own “anxiety distractions” into the exam room. For instance, they may let you play one of your favorite podcasts to distract you from any worry or fear you might otherwise experience.

Practice Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can reduce anxiety in a number of situations. This includes going to the dentist.

Focus on breathing slowly and deeply into your diaphragm when you feel anxiety before or during a dental visit. When possible, you may also try the following exercise:

  • Breathe in slowly for four seconds
  • Try to hold your breath for seven seconds
  • Exhale slowly for eight seconds
  • Repeat

Research shows that repeating deep and calming breathing exercises for just a few minutes can have a major impact on stress and anxiety levels.

Bring a Friend

Some people who may not necessarily feel much anxiety when preparing for an appointment with their dentist may nevertheless become anxious as soon as they find themselves in the dentist’s chair. If this sounds familiar, consider asking your dentist if a close family member or friend can accompany you in the room as you undergo treatment. The presence of a support buddy could help you remain calm.

See a Dentist Regularly

Again, you already understand that seeing a dentist regularly is important for your health. It’s also worth noting that seeing your dentist consistently may also address your dental anxiety. 

Exposure therapy is a common treatment method for people who experience anxiety in certain settings or situations. The more someone is exposed to their fear, the less it bothers them over time.

This approach may help you cope with your fear of going to the dentist. If you genuinely make a point of seeing your dentist often, you may find the experience becomes less and less troubling over time.

Maintain Your Dental Health

While a routine cleaning might not bother you, a more involved procedure (such as a root canal) may cause anxiety. This is another good reason to stay on top of your oral hygiene! If you keep your teeth and gums healthy, the odds that you will need to undergo such procedures will be much lower.

Ask About Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is an option to consider if you experience significant dental anxiety. It involves using medication to help you feel more calm during treatment. This is a topic your dentist can discuss with you in greater detail.

Just remember, there’s no shame whatsoever in struggling with anxiety over seeing the dentist. Studies and surveys show most people experience this type of anxiety to some extent. Fortunately, as these examples demonstrate, this might not be a type of anxiety you need to live with.

Talk to a Dentist About Your Anxiety

At The Ricco Dental Group, in Plainview, New York, we understand that dental anxiety is common. Thus, we’re always happy to discuss this topic with patients, helping them feel as comfortable as possible during treatment. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 516-931-3999.

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