Dental Anxiety Management: Symptoms, Coping Mechanisms & Treatments

If you are scared of the dentist but need treatment, you’re not alone! Over 40% of the US population has reported at least moderate levels of dentistry-related fear or anxiety.

There are many causes of dental fear — such as a negative dental experience, or a more associated fear, such as claustrophobia or a fear of needles. Some mental health conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, and prior head or neck trauma may increase the fear of dental procedures.

If you’re looking for dental anxiety management tips — you’re not alone. Read on to learn more about dental anxiety, and get tips on how to overcome your fear of dentists.

Symptoms of Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety can manifest in different ways, which means patients can experience different symptoms and intensities or sometimes a combination of them. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Increase heart rate or palpitations
  • Shortness of breath or feeling suffocated
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Emotional distress

Recognizing and addressing dental anxiety early can help individuals seek appropriate support and dental anxiety management plans with their dentists and professional staff.

What are Coping Options for Dental Anxiety?

Whether it’s just a regular check-up appointment or if you have already determined a procedure that’s right for you, dental fear or anxiety can come in many ways. If you are feeling uneasy, some coping mechanisms will help with overcoming your dental fear.

  • Communicate your hesitations to your dentist - Your dental care team will work with you on a dental anxiety management plan that makes sense for your needs, whether that’s through coming up with a hand signal for breaks, or getting a thorough step-by-step breakdown of the procedure before it occurs.
  • Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques - Taking repetitive deep breaths, holding it for a count of 4, then exhaling through your mouth can help with relaxing and feeling calmer.
  • Distract Yourself - Bringing a friend or family member to keep you company, or having music or a TV in the background may help you with being distracted while a dental procedure is being performed.
  • Visualize Positive Dental Experiences - Imagining a calm waiting room, a friendly dentist, and successfully pain-free procedures can help with nerves.
  • Gradual Exposure - Instead of tackling everything at once, you can gradually increase exposure to dental-related stimuli. Start with visiting a dental office without an appointment or having a conversation with a dentist.

What are Medical Options and Treatments for Dental Anxiety?

If the behavioral coping techniques are not enough to help with your dental anxiety, and if you have more serious procedures like root canals or wisdom teeth removals, there are common medical practices to help manage dental anxiety:

  • Topical anesthetic. Also known as numbing gel, this is usually used on the skin or gums to numb the area before an injection.
  • Injected anesthetic. Traditionally delivered through a very small needle into deeper tissue.
  • Inhalation sedation. Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” may be used with traditional anesthetics to help relax a patient. It is administered with a nasal inhaler for a few minutes, and then a traditional anesthetic is given.
  • Full sedation. When there are longer procedures, the patient is rendered fully asleep or unconscious through IV-administered sedatives. Many modern practices are offering full sedation for patients with severe dental anxiety.
  • And more! Click here to read more about the sedation services we offer at Affordable Dentures & Implants. Note: Availability of services may vary at each local practice.

How Can Dental Anxiety Affect Your Oral Health?

If you’re experiencing severe dental anxiety, it might just seem easier to avoid the dentist altogether. 15% of the US population avoids dental care entirely as a result of moderate to severe dental anxiety. However, not going to the dentist can be dangerous to your health.

Avoiding regular dental care and regular cleanings can cause plaque, bad breath, and cavities which increases the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Avoiding the dentist can also cause harm to your heart.

When bacteria or infections are present in the mouth, it can be carried throughout your entire body causing cardiac issues like heart disease or a stroke as your arteries become infected. These are very serious diseases that can have very long-term consequences.

This is why everyone is strongly encouraged to visit the dentist regularly, especially if you’re experiencing pain or infection in your mouth.

We Believe Everyone Deserves to Love Their Smile

Here at Affordable Dentures & Implants we believe in a judgment-free zone and we in fact deal with many patients who suffer from dental anxiety. Our team is trained to be gentle and take extra care of patients who might have a fear of dentists.

Schedule your free consultation today to learn more about an affordable, long-lasting solution to tooth loss.


We Believe Everyone Deserves to Love Their Smile

Schedule your free consultation today to learn more about an affordable, long lasting solution to tooth loss.

Find Your Practice