For a whopping 10 percent of the worldwide adult population, a routine check up at the dentist can bring up such extreme anxiety that they avoid going to the dentist altogether. If you find yourself feeling fairly to very anxious considering any of the following, you may also have dental anxiety:

  • the thought of going to the dentist tomorrow
  • picturing yourself in the dentist waiting room
  • imagining yourself receiving a local anaesthetic injection
    • or getting a tooth drilled
    • or receiving a scaling and polishing

The degree of anxiety that you feel regarding any of the moments above, and whether you have a previous negative dental experience that precipitates those feelings will determine if you are in the camp of dental anxiety or of a more extreme dental phobia. With the help and diagnosis from a GP, there are many strategies available to a person with a dental phobia.

For those who experience dental anxiety, we offer some suggestions of calming your nerves and making your visit to the dentist more bearable:

  1. Acknowledge that you have some anxiety in the first place. If you have missed several routine dental check ups because of a demanding schedule or inconvenience, then we urge you to take a moment to truly analyse why you’re skipping appointments. Only once you acknowledge a dental anxiety can you take the next steps to help alleviate it.
  2. Find a dentist you can trust. Ask your friends/family for recommendations. Know what is important to you. If good bedside manner is key to your comfort, then lookup reviews on rapport. If years of experience is what you trust, then prioritize age.
  3. Once you decide on a dentist, call to schedule an appointment. Disclose your feelings with the knowledge that you are certainly not the first person with dental anxiety that they treat. Ask if the team is willing to meet you/talk through your questions prior to a dental check up. This is your opportunity to vet the team, get acquainted with the space, and familiarize yourself – before your first regular appointment.
  4. When you do schedule your first visit, try to make it for early morning. That way you won’t need to stress all day before your visit. Practice calming techniques the night before and give yourself plenty of time to get some much-needed rest.
  5. Consider bringing a friend to the appointment with you. The presence of a familiar person who you trust and who can advocate on your behalf if you feel unable to do so can do wonders in easing anxiety. What are friends for? Holding your hand in the dentist chair, that’s what!
  6. Agree with your dentist on a sign for ‘stop’ – something you won’t need your oral capabilities to communicate. A simple hand wave will do. Knowing you can stop a procedure when you’re uncomfortable with a simple flick of the wrist should ease some anxiety.
  7. Take breaks during your visit as needed, but also know that you can break your dental needs up into shorter, more frequent visits. It is better to have your dental needs addressed slowly than not at all!
  8. Bring your headphones and a playlist of familiar and calming music to listen to. Sometimes droning out the whirl of the drills is enough to make it through an appointment stress free.
  9. Learn what forms of sedation are available to you and consider an oral or nitrous oxide sedation to help you relax.
  10. Take preventative precautions to ensure your visit to the dentist are as pain and problem free as possible. We offer many tips on the importance of good oral hygiene and tips to help you incorporate flossing into your daily routine here, here, and here.
Strategies to help ease dental anxiety

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