Be aware that your fear of the dentist is normal. There is no reason to be embarrassed by your fear of the dentist. Many people around the world share this phobia. It shouldn’t keep you from getting proper dental care, which can have serious effects on your health and ability to socialize.
• Most guidelines suggest visiting your dentist twice a year to maintain oral health.
• Not going to the dentist regularly can lead to cavities, abscesses, broken or missing teeth, and bad breath. Some of these conditions could harm your social life.
Write out your specific fears. Some people may be reluctant to admit that they have a dental phobia. In order to overcome your fear of the dentist, write out a list of what is causing you anxiety at the dentist.
• You may not even be aware of your specific fear(s) until you begin to think about it. You might realize that it’s not the procedures that scare you, but your dentist himself. This is an easy fear to help overcome by simply seeking out a new
• Take this list to the dentist with you and discuss your fears with her. She can likely offer rational explanations for whatever is causing your anxiety.
Figure out the cause of your fears. Fear is often learned through experience or memory. Identifying the sources of your dental phobia can help you take proactive steps to overcome your fear of the dentist.
• Thinking about specific experiences that may have contributed to fear of the dentist and countering them with positive experiences can help to get you in the proper frame of mind to start overcoming your phobia. For example, if you had an especially painful cavity or root canal, think about situations where your dentist complimented you for your great oral hygiene or you had a pain free procedure like a cleaning to offset your fear.
• If you cannot identify a specific experience that is the source of your fear, it may be from a memory or a social fear, such as dental horror stories from friends or family members.
• Thinking about the sources of your dental phobia can help you gradually overcome the fear. Simply acknowledging your fears may be the only thing you need to overcome them.
Acknowledge that dental procedures have improved greatly. Before you take concrete steps to visit the dentist’s office to help overcome your fear, it’s important to understand that dental procedures have improved greatly in recent years. Gone are the days of medieval drills and large anesthetic needles. Understanding improvements in dental treatments may help alleviate your fears.
• There are many new methods for treating dental issues such as cavities. There are drills with a button to stop when you want or even laser methods to remove the infected area.
• Many dentists are also making their offices less clinical with softer color palettes and removing the typical smells often associated with dental visits.
Communicate with your dentist. The foundation of any good doctor-patient relationship is effective communication. Talking to your dentist before, during, and after procedures can help minimize your fears.
• Speak with your dentist before the procedure about any fears or concerns you have. You may also want her to explain the procedure to you before it begins.
• Ask your dentist to keep you informed as she is doing the procedure. Remember that you have the right to know what is happening.
Script procedures that scare you. Tackling a fear can cause any person to lose confidence and avoid a situation. Employing the behavioral tactic of scripting before your appointment can help you engage with otherwise scary situations and minimize your fear of the dentist.
• Scripting is a technique where you conceptualize a game plan or “script” for a specific situation and follow through with it. For example, if you are scared of an upcoming teeth cleaning, write notes and develop a plan that will allow you to have equal command of the appointment. Think about what you could say in response to any questions or contingencies that may arise in your interaction.
Frame dental procedures in simple terms. If you fear a dentist’s visit or a specific procedure, frame it in simple terms. Framing is a behavioral technique that can help you shape how you think and feel about specific situations by making them seem commonplace or banal.
• If you are afraid about getting your teeth cleaned, you can reframe it as “this is a quick procedure that’s just like brushing my teeth.”
• Working with smaller and more manageable units can help you overcome any fears.
Employ relaxation techniques. Relaxing can help you have a more pleasant experience at the dentist and may minimize your fears. From breathing exercises to medication, there are different relaxation techniques you can employ to manage your dental phobia.
• Many dentists will suggest using nitrous oxide, sedation, or anti-anxiety medications such as alprazolam to help you relax during your visit.
• Some dentists will give anti-anxiety medication before appointments if you suffer from severe nerves.
• If you take any anti-anxiety medication that your dentist did not prescribe, make sure that she knows before you start a procedure to help ensure that there aren’t any potentially dangerous interactions between medications.
• Be aware that using these medications during a procedure can make it more expensive, which dental insurance may not cover.
• Try breathing exercises to help relax you. You can breathe rhythmically to a count of 4 second of inhaling to 4 seconds of exhaling. If it helps, think the word “let” as you inhale and “go” as you exhale to help your mind release your fear as much as possible.
• If necessary, double up on your relaxing techniques.
Distract yourself with different media. You can use a variety of different media to help distract you during a dentist’s visit. Listening to music or watching televisions your dentist has installed can help relax you and may minimize your fears.
• Many dentists now have MP3 players or televisions and tablets they offer to patients to help distract them.
• If your doctor doesn’t offer any of these, ask if you may listen to soothing music or a book during your appointment.
• You can also use a stress ball to help distract and relax yourself during your appointment.
• You may also want to listen to soothing music or watch a funny video before your appointment to help you relax and associate the dentist with calm, which can help you overcome your fears.
Take a friend or family member to your appointment. Consider asking a friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment. She can help to distract you from a procedure, and also may help calm you.
• If you are extremely anxious, ask the doctor if your friend can accompany you to the procedure room. Knowing that another trusted person is in the room may help you to relax.
Prevent serious dental problems with regular visits. Many people fear the dentist because of complicated and often painful procedures such as a root canal. By getting regular cleanings and checkups, you’ll not only help yourself overcome your fear of the dentist, but also prevent serious oral health conditions.
• Make sure to take care of your oral health on a daily basis to minimize the risk of needing complicated procedures. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and making sure to floss can go a long way in preventing problems.
• The more often you get checkups that are positive, the more quickly you can overcome your fear of the dentist.
Reward yourself for positive appointments. After an appointment, reward yourself with something you want or by doing something fun. This can help you associate dental visits with rewards instead of fear.
• For example, you might want to buy yourself something small like a shirt or a pair of shoes for going to the dentist.
• You could do something fun like going to a local amusement or water park.
• You might want to avoid rewarding yourself with sweets, which could cause cavities and require more dental visits.